Courtesy of Yamaha Racing
The five young Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders are ready to get the 2018 FIM Supersport 300 World Championship underway in Aragon, Spain this weekend. Spearheading the attack on the title will be Indonesian rider Galang Hendra Pratama, who took the world by storm last year when he rode to a stunning victory at the final round of the season in Jerez as a wildcard. Looking forward to his first full-time season in the championship, he will be joined on the grid by Italian Luca Bernardi, Dutch riders Dennis Koopman and Joep Overbeeke, and Hugo de Cancellis from France as they compete against each other in the 2018 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge alongside the main championship.
The 2018 WorldSSP300 season sees the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge enters its second year as part of the Yamaha bLU cRU project that is a truly unique scheme designed to identify, nurture, and develop the best young riding talent from around the world, providing a clear career path for them to fulfil their dreams on the world stage. The crop of five young, talented riders for 2018 were selected to compete in the Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge after putting in good performances in their respective National R3 Cup’s and Challenges and then impressing the bLU cRU Ambassadors during the R3 Masterclass in Latina, Italy last year.
Galang Hendra (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | Biblion Motoxracing Team) gave notice to his potential with two wildcard appearances in the WorldSSP300 Championship last year, impressing in Portimao while battling in the top ten, before going on to take a sensational victory at the last race of the season in Jerez. Coming from the Asian Road Racing Championship AP250 class, the 19-year-old from Selangor had never ridden the Yamaha YZF-R3 or even been to Europe before his 2017 wildcards and knows the biggest challenge ahead of him will be having to learn most of the tracks during his debut season. Despite this, he is confident he can hit the ground running in Aragon and battle at the front throughout the race weekend as he looks to mount a serious title challenge in 2018.
The victor of the 2017 Dutch Yamaha R3 Cup, 20-year-old Dutch rider Dennis Koopman (Yamaha Pata | Semakin di Depan | GRT Team), comes from a family of racers. His father has been racing for over 20 years and from the tender age of 12 years old, Dennis took up the family tradition. A sensational 2017 saw him record 6 wins and three second-place finishes to secure the title and he is now relishing the chance to prove himself on the world stage.
The 2017 season was incredible for Italian Luca Bernardi (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) as he emerged victorious not only in the Italian Yamaha R3 Cup but the Italian CIV Supersport 300 Championship too, with the 16-year-old going on to further impress at the 2017 bLU cRU Masterclass to secure his place in the 2018 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge. Bernardi has been racing since he was five years old and – like Galang Hendra – highlighted his class during two wildcard appearances in the WorldSSP300 Championship in 2017, recording a best-placed finish of seventh at Imola.
Born in Ooltgensplat in the Netherlands, Bernardi’s teammate for 2018 is 18-year-old Joep Overbeeke (Yamaha Pata | Trasimeno Team) who has been racing since he was 9 years old. In 2017 he finished third overall in the Dutch Yamaha R3 Cup to earn his place at the 2017 Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Masterclass. Impressing the ambassadors, Overbeeke is now preparing for his tenth season as a racer, but first in the World Championship.
The 16-year-old French rider Hugo de Cancellis (Yamaha Pata | Toth – YART Team) was the winner of the 2017 French Yamaha R3 Challenge. Growing up in Avignon, Hugo started BMX racing at the age of seven. When he was 12 he swapped pedals for power as he began racing motorbikes in the PW50 Cup, finishing third in just his second season in the class. It has always been his dream to be a professional rider and he is hoping to grab the opportunity to race in the WorldSSP300 Championship with both hands to show the world his potential.
All five Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge riders have been training hard in preparation for the opening round of the 2018 SuperSport 300 World Championship and will hit the track for the first time in anger in Aragon on Friday at 11:45 am local time (CEST) for Free Practice 1. Qualifying will take place on Saturday from 11:30 am, with the first race of the season scheduled for 2:20 pm on Sunday.
Yamaha Motor Europe bLU cRU Racing Manager
“I’m excited to start the second year of the road racing bLU cRU program, the new selected young riders continue to impress me after showing their potential in their respective National R3 Challenge’s or Cup’s and they did superbly at the Masterclass as well. Now it is time for their WorldSSP300 debut! Preseason testing went well and I was happy with how the riders worked with their new teams in finding a good setup and direction with their Yamaha YZF-R3. The bLU cRU philosophy means that we will help them as much as we can during the season. All the riders will have the support of our technical staff at the track and also will get advice from the bLU cRU ambassadors (WorldSBK/WorldSSP official riders) on everything from how to set up their bikes, some riding tips for each circuit and also on how to mentally approach a race weekend. The Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge really does offer them a clear and defined career path right the way through to the top level of racing, and each of the riders are hoping to grab this opportunity with both hands. I would like to give a big thank you to all who are involved in the project, all of our sponsors, especially Pata and Semakin di Depan, plus all the teams, staff and parents. The season will be a great experience for all the bLU cRU riders and I wish them all the best of success!”