The Yamaha bLU cRU project is designed to identify, encourage, and develop the best young riding talent, providing a clear career path for them to fulfil their dreams on the world stage. Starting in 2015 for off-road riders, the road-racing side of the project began two years later with six riders selected to compete in the 2017 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship as a part of the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge. The first year of the project saw it deliver on its potential, with 20-year-old Italian Alfonso Coppola winning the challenge and just missing out on the overall championship by one point as all six bLU cRU riders - plus Indonesian wildcard and race winner Galang Hendra Pratama - impressed throughout the season. The first ever Yamaha R3 Masterclass took place alongside the second edition of the Yamaha YZ125 Masterclass, featuring Yamaha MXGP legend Steven Frossard, that searches for the best young off-road riders to take part in the YZ125 bLU cRU Cup, a project that has grown into the most successful feeder program into the European EMX125 Championship.
In Latina, Italy on the 26th-28th of October 2017 it was time to find the next crop of potential future road-racing world champions, with 11 young riders selected to take part in the first ever Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Masterclass at the Il Sagittario Circuit in an effort to secure their place as one of the six Yamaha bLU cRU riders in the 2018 WorldSSP Championship on board a Yamaha YZF-R3. These riders will benefit from the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge rider package, dedicated to supporting young riders in the international racing environment. This includes racing kit parts, a race service support at the track, a full paddock clothing kit and much more. The riders will participate in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge within the championship, with the top rider at the end of the season moving up the racing pyramid with an official Yamaha supported ride in a higher class the following year.
To ensure it was a truly once in a lifetime experience for the young riders, on hand to provide advice and guidance were the bLU cRU Ambassadors, GMT94 Yamaha's triple Endurance World Champion David Checa and his teammate who helped him lift the 2016/2017 title, former MotoGP rider Niccolò Canepa. They were joined by GRT Yamaha's WorldSSP rider Federico Caricasulo, fresh from his 'perfect' weekend in Jerez where he secured pole position, a new lap record, and took the race victory. Completing the mentor lineup was the 2017 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge winner, Alfonso Coppola, who could give first-hand advice to the young riders about what it is like to be a part of the bLU cRU project after an incredible season that saw him finish as runner-up in the WorldSSP300 Championship.
Over the two days, under the watchful eye of Yamaha Motor Europe's bLU cRU Racing Manager Alberto Barozzi, the bLU cRU Ambassadors and the MotoX Racing Team, these young riders were taught by the very best in the business and given a chance to impress in an effort to take the next step in their career. The 11 riders taking part in the Masterclass finished at the top of their respective 2017 National R3 Cup's with Luca Bernardi (16), Alessandro Arcangeli (16) and Giovanni Grianti (18) from Italy joined by Dutch riders Dennis Koopman (20), Kevin Mijwaart (18) and Joep Overbeeke (18), along with Hugo de Cancellis (16), Lucas Clement (19) and Alan Muel (19) from France, as well as Greek rider Notis Papapavlou (17) and Mihail Floroff (16) from Bulgaria.
Split into two groups, all 11 riders took full advantage of the Masterclass, not only spending the two days learning as much as they could from the bLU cRU Ambassadors on the Il Sagitarrio Circuit but also finding out what it takes away from the track to become a world-class rider. The Masterclass was designed to cover all aspects of motorcycle racing, on the first day the riders learnt everything from how to improve their riding styles and technical lessons about how best to set up their R3s, right the way through to how to mentally prepare for a race weekend and the best training exercises to do and nutrition advice to ensure they are at their physical peak.
On the second day, they took part in a series of races, which saw the two groups participate in separate qualifying races, with the top three from each group going through to compete in the final. The winner was 16-year-old Italian Luca Bernardi, with 20-year-old Dutch rider Dennis Koopman in second and his compatriot, 18-year-old Joep Overbeeke, completing the podium but, as stressed by the bLU cRU Ambassadors, winning the races or setting the fastest lap time over the course of the two days would not be the deciding factor in being selected. They would also take into account the attitude of the riders, their ability to adapt and put into practice what they had learnt and the many other elements that contribute to making a world class rider.
After a memorable two days for the 11 young riders, they all left the Masterclass with heads held high after they thoroughly impressed the bLU cRU Ambassadors. Now they must wait until Wednesday the 1st of November when the Racing Committee of Yamaha Motor Europe will announce who will get to become an official Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge rider in 2018. Yamaha would like to thank everyone that took part in the Masterclass for making it such a success, especially the MotoX Racing Team who provided first-class support throughout the two days to everyone involved.
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
"I hope this has been as an amazing experience for the riders as it was for me coaching! They achieved so much, everyone seemed to enjoy it and the level of riding was superb. Whoever makes it through to the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge next season will do a good job. Niccolò, Federico, Alfonso and I tried to pass on all of our knowledge and skills to these guys and considering how much they had to take in over the two days, I was very impressed with how much they progressed. I think this is an amazing project from Yamaha, they are the only manufacturer to have a scheme like this that supports young riders through every step of their career and, having been a part of the Yamaha family for 16 seasons, I can tell you how special it is. Everyone here showed a great attitude, had fun and progressed a huge amount, I have been very impressed. Who knows maybe one of these guys will go on to be a world champion for Yamaha! Yamaha is in my blood, I have spent 90% of my career with them and my heart will always be with Yamaha, so it was a pleasure to pass on this feeling to these young riders. The bLU cRU Masterclass has been a really unique experience and I think all the riders appreciated what an incredible opportunity it was."
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
"It has been amazing! I had a lot of fun but I hope I have also been quite useful to the riders. To see how much they improved over the two days was incredible, their attitudes were great too and they took advantage of all of our knowledge and experience by asking lots of questions. We tried to help them with everything, from setting up the bike to advice on how to improve their riding styles, the best ways to train, effective nutrition, race mentality...the lot. It was also very good for me, as I am always looking to improve and spending time with riders like these, who share the same passion for racing, has been amazing!"
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team
"The first R3 bLU cRU Masterclass has been an amazing experience! The young riders were excellent and showed a great attitude, plus they were pretty quick so it was also good training for me to ride with them. It really was an honour to be a part of the Masterclass, providing advice and helping to assess the riders, plus I had a lot of fun riding the R3 on track with all the riders and my colleagues and it was great to see how much progress everyone made over the two days."
2017 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge Winner
"For me, this has been a great experience working with David, Niccolò, Federico and all the young riders! It is a big opportunity for all of them, as I found out this year after being selected to take part in the first Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge, and it was great to be able to pass on what I have learnt to the guys. It is an amazing project, to be able to get advice from World Champions like David and Niccolò and someone as good as Federico is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I learnt a lot too. The focus was not just about how to be fast on track but also how to prepare the bike and yourself in the best way possible, mentally and physically, so that you can always give your maximum."
Yamaha bLU cRU Racing Manager
"Everything came together to make a perfect event at the first Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Masterclass! The Il Sagittario Circuit was perfectly suited for this kind of activity, the track layout is a great mix of smooth flowing corners and slower technical sections, plus you can see the whole of the circuit wherever you are, which makes it easier to follow the progress of each rider. The Park Hotel also meant we had access to their facilities, including the gym, indoor football pitch and meeting room. The four bLU cRU Ambassadors were superb mentors for the riders, you can see how much they enjoyed passing on their knowledge and also how much it meant to the young riders. Of course, only five of the riders will make it through to compete in the 2018 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge, but every one of the 11 has proven their quality over the past two days and they should all be very proud of their efforts. I hope that even if they are not selected, hopefully, they not only learnt a lot about riding on track but also about what it takes away from the track, taking as much as possible away from these two days, and come back stronger next year. I would like to thank all the riders, the Yamaha staff, and the MotoX Racing Team for all their hard work."
Yamaha R3 Cup Coordinator & Rider Coach NL
"This whole bLU cRU program is really special and this first R3 bLU cRU Masterclass has been a brilliant event. The 2017 season was our first year running the Yamaha R3 Cup in the Netherlands and to see our riders come here and do well, not only by being quick but by showing great improvements in all aspects, makes me very proud. Overall, the Yamaha racing philosophy is what is important, it really is one big happy family and an event like this is special, you can see how much it has meant to all the riders. I think the bLU cRU project is a great initiative that will only get bigger and the first Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Masterclass has been perfect!"
Yamaha Distributor Greece - Motodynamics Technical Racing Manager
"The level of professionalism at the bLU cRU Masterclass has been very high but more importantly, all of the riders have left happy, which makes me happy! The riders can take away so much from the two days, I have seen how much their self-esteem has increased, and they definitely have improved as riders. It is great to see them all so happy and I know they will take the lessons learnt here away with them and carry on improving. It really is a special moment for the young riders to get to ride on the track and learn from David, Niccolò, Federico and Alfonso. The Yamaha bLU cRU project is a one of a kind and the first R3 bLU cRU Masterclass has been incredible!"