Grand Prix champ our Casey Stoner
A FALTERING gearbox, a pack of chasing Italians, no sleep and the treadmarks of some racing greats.
At 175 kilometres-an-hour, Maclean’s Luke Mitchell had it all in front of him before becoming the 2010 Silverstone Mini Grand Prix Metrakit 80cc champion in England last weekend.
It was the first time juniors have been allowed to race as part of a MotoGP event anywhere in the world.
And the 13-year-old joined Griffith’s Zac Zanesco as Australians in the prestigious event, which has paved the way for the careers of some of today’s stars like current MotoGP series leader Jorge Lorenzo.
Not even pre-race nerves, two jittery starts or mechanical problems could unseat Mitchell.
“On the plane over there I couldn’t sleep because I was too excited,” he said.
But he recovered to claim victory in all three of the 20-lap races.
“We sat on the line in the first race and I got a really bad start – I was last in the first corner,” he said.
“I fought my way back to first. In the second race I got a good start and led through the first corner. I got a big lead and cruised from there.
“In the third race, halfway through the race, my gearbox started making a grinding and vibrating noise, but it seemed to stay okay.”
In a field of about 20 riders – including a pack of much older Italians – Mitchell did what he wanted to do.
“I wanted to be in the top 10,” he said.
“I was happy. I was over the moon.
“And it was really good (to race against older riders) because you can learn off them.”
Training is next on Mitchell’s wish-list. Lots of it.
“I didn’t train much, but I’m going to start now because if I can get first with practically no training, I should do okay with a bit more,” he said.
In 2007, after six years in dirt bikes, Mitchell was discovered by Rob Carter, the man who stumbled upon international star Troy Corser’s talents.
“He said to Dad that Luke has got a road racing style,” said Mitchell, who downplayed talk of being a “natural talent”.
“That’s what Dad and everyone says, but I just love riding.”
Earlier this year Mitchell set Phillip Island’s 80cc junior lap record – a 4.5km run in just over two minutes – aboard his $13,500 Metrakit bike.
But any talk of becoming the nation’s next world champion is premature, according to Mitchell’s mother Sharon.
“I thought it was awesome (he won). (But) when he says it’s not fun anymore it’s all over.”