Features 9 May 2023

Profiled: Jacob Roulstone

RBRC and JuniorGP contender on Jerez podium and European journey.

Amidst the highly-competitive Moto3 ranks in Europe, Australia’s Jacob Roulstone has clawed his way forward with some solid results and great progress made. Highlighting his strong start to the 2023 season, he scored a P2 finish during the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup round at Jerez and featured inside the top five in the JuniorGP World Championship opener at Estoril. Sharing on his promising start to the year, journey racing in Europe, and future ambitions, the talented 18-year-old features in our latest Profiled piece.

After achieving success in the national dirt track ranks, Roulstone spent time sampling the bitumen at kart tracks in Australia, riding an NSF100 and Moriwaki 80. He competed in the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup (IATC) and select Oceania Junior Cup (OJC) races in 2019, before accelerating his plans to head to Europe the following season to compete in the Hawkers European Talent Cup (HETC).

“Coming over in 2020, I signed with Leopard Impala as part of its junior team, I don’t think we could have been in a better team to start the journey over here,” said Roulstone to CycleOnline. “They were very welcoming, and kind of close, family-like.

“My mechanics and engineer I had in there were really, really good, they took the time and effort to learn and speak as much English as they could.  2020 was a good year for that, a lot of learning and when we did finally get underway it was like, boom. They helped me throughout 2020, just with the learning year, then going into 2021, it was more of a fighting for the championship year in the HETC.

2021 was only Roulstone’s second year in the HETC, and he won the opening race of the season in Estoril. Despite things not going entirely to plan throughout the mid-part of the campaign, he finished his stint in the HETC with two podium finishes in the final round.

For 2022, Roulstone signed with the Aspar Junior Team to step up to the JuniorGP World Championship, and he was also selected to compete in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (RBRC). While the transition provided challenges at first, Roulstone was able to end the year with improved results which provided the platform for a strong 2023 season.

“Going to Aspar, it was a lot more professional-like, if you are in the JuniorGP World Championship, you need to perform,” Roulstone stated. “It was very difficult to be the only English-speaking people, my mum and I here, in that team. I did have some hard times at the start, a lot of misfortune with some incidents that I had.

Image: Supplied.

“Halfway to three-quarters of the way through the year, we signed a deal with the team and they kind of brought me in a little bit and knew that I had some potential. Started getting a couple of top-15 results at the end of last year and signed with them again this year. I’ve got a new engineer, my old one from last year has moved to the world championship, and so far I have gelled really, really well with him.”

During the 2023 Red Bull Rookies Cup opener at Portimao, Roulstone finished ninth in race two. He then qualified a strong P4 at Jerez, the second round of the RBRC season, and converted that to a breakthrough second-place result in the opening encounter at the Spanish circuit.

“I was over the moon with the results in Jerez,” Roulstone explained. “I’ve been working extremely hard in the off-season – I had a very difficult year last year in both championships, and kind of three-quarters of the way through last year with the Aspar team in the Junior World Championship, we kind of looked at everything and switched it around a bit.

“Also from a personal side as well, just with my training and the way I was thinking about training and things like that, training for a reason. But yeah, it’s really, really good to get that podium and to get a good result under my belt.

“For sure, it hasn’t been easy, but I felt good ever since qualifying, with qualifying fourth. We struggled a bit in the race, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to stick with the pace, but I ended up focusing and just hitting my points.

“I went for it in the last corner to take the lead, but I accidentally shifted to second, not to first, so then out of the corner I had to quickly shift back to first and that’s where I had a little incident with another rider as well, but I’m happy with the result.”

While Roulstone rides a KTM in the Red Bull Rookies Cup and GasGas badged KTM with the Aspar Team in the Junior World Championship, there are some key differences between the two platforms. In short, the bike used in RBRC is a production-based Moto3 machine, with lower spec parts and fewer electronic adjustments available when compared to prototype bikes used in the JuniorGP World Championship.

Image: Supplied.

Nonetheless, Roulstone was able to find his feet onboard the Aspar machine a week later at Estoril and delivered a solid fifth-place result to commence the 2023 JuniorGP World Championship.

“Leading into the past weekend, I struggled a little bit on Thursday and getting back to the Moto3,” Roulstone added. “The rookies cup bike is a lot more basic, compared to the prototype Moto3, the spec bike I ride in the Junior World Championship has better brakes and you play around with engine mapping and engine braking, so it is difficult to get back to that.

“Friday during the second day of free practice I was able to switch back to the good feeling that we had at the test. Struggled a little bit in qualifying, but the race was good. I did come across the line in sixth, but then one of the riders got disqualified for being under the weight so that is how I got bumped up to fifth.”

Roulstone is now on his way to compete in the third round of the 2023 Red Bull Rookies Cup at Le Mans, alongside the French MotoGP round this weekend. While a number of races still remain for the young Australian this year, he has his sights firmly set on securing a Moto3 World Championship contract for the 2024 season.

“The goal coming into this year was to be able to get a Moto3 World Championship contract for next year,” he continued. “I am quite tall for the bike, but I am very light. The tall Moto3 riders get a bit discriminated against here in Europe, but I personally think it’s one of the hardest championships, because all of the bikes are the exact same, and I think it’s where you become a very good rider.

“I’m nowhere near moving up to Moto2 two yet, I still think that it is really beneficial to stay in Moto3 and yeah, basically just need to keep consistent top fives in both championships and be consistently battling up the front.

“The goal will be to be racing in the world championship next year, but I can’t be too focused on that at the moment. Just got to keep focusing on the races ahead.”