The rookie who won the Rookies
Kazuki Masaki is the 2017 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion, taking the crown on first asking and wrapping up the title at MotorLand at the Aragon GP. Masaki, born in 2000, is the second consecutive Japanese rider to take the title – taking the throne from outgoing Champion Ayumu Sasaki. The riders share both a flag and a route to the top in the Cup, having both come from the Asia Talent Cup.
Masaki debuted in the Asia Talent Cup in 2015. After beginning to ride at the age of three, the Japanese rider fulfilled his promise from the outset and was on the podium in the first ATC race weekend he participated in, taking to the rostrum in Race 2 in Buriram. That year also saw Masaki win his first races, taking the victory in Race 2 at Motegi and doing the same in the second race on the Cup’s first visit to Sepang that season. At the end of the year, the Japanese youngster was third overall.
2016 saw more podiums in the Asia Talent Cup, and a diversification into different paths on the Road to MotoGP – specifically into the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship with the Asia Talent Team. From the outset, Masaki showed his speed once again, taking top tens as a rookie and ending the year tenth in the standings of the Junior World Championship – no mean feat.
2017 saw more success for Masaki in the CEV, with more podium results, and the Japanese rider debuted in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup - a move that would see him take his first international title, and as a rookie in the Rookies. As in the Asia Talent Cup back in 2015, Masaki arrived with a bang - taking a podium first time out and consistently getting on the rostrum throughout the season. He won his first race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in Race 2, giving his title push even more credibility, before taking the crown at MotorLand with his second win in Race 1. With such speed and consistency, Masaki was crowned 2017 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion with a race to spare.
Graduates and participants in the Asia Talent Cup have impressed all season in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, with Champion Masaki the highest achiever but by no means an exception. Close behind the eventual Champion was fellow Asia Talent Cup rider Can Öncü in third overall, with his twin brother Deniz Öncü in fourth. Ryusei Yamanaka was fifth on his debut, and Ai Ogura took seventh despite missing four races due to injury. Ogura also won two races, and had debuted on the rostrum as the lights went out on 2017 at Jerez.
The Road to MotoGP will now continue for Masaki after his incredible debut success, ready for the next generation to begin showing their talent from the Asia Talent Cup to the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and beyond.