Wil Ruprecht | Columns | Gassit Garage
There’s no deviation in this young off-road rider’s career trajectory.
Just a few years ago, Wil Ruprecht was contesting the East Coast Junior Motocross series – a championship known for its intensity – and also riding the occasional NSW enduro round, where he was happy with the extra seat time and less aggressive atmosphere. So it was a no-brainer when the offer came to join Trent Lean’s Suzuki-backed Australian Off Road Championship (AORC) Team in 2011.
“Wil’s riding technique was a little different to the norm,” Lean recalls, “but regardless of the terrain, his speed was impressive and his quiet-achiever ways made him easy to work with.”
Nic Tomlinson and Broc Grabham had already begun to establish credibility when 12-year-old Wil joined the mix in Juniors, running fourth in 2011, second in 2012, then winning the AORC Junior 3 title on a Suzuki RM125 in 2013, followed by a second AORC title on a Suzuki RMZ250 in 2014.
“Wil’s greatest asset was his ability not to pressure for immediate results, and this certainly limited his down time,” says Lean. “He only missed two championship rounds in five years – amazing statistics in this sport.”
Wil was then cast into that awkward period between the Juniors and the Pro ranks, but at just 16 years old he ran third on a Suzuki RMZ450 in the Transmoto 19-and-under division, only to have Suzuki pull out due to lack of funding.
Suzuki’s loss was Sherco’s gain as Wil blitzed 19-and-under on his Sherco 450SEFR in 2016, and was odds-on favourite for a repeat this year.
Former Australian Enduro Champion and current Yamaha Active8 team manager AJ Roberts had been keeping an eye on Wil and was quick to sign him up to contest the E1 (250cc) division in 2017. And Wil was more than ready to make the step up.
“Wil is a young kid with great style and understanding of off-road,” says Roberts. “We believe he has what it takes and is a rider we can develop in the future.”
Ruprecht himself is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s not that the 19-and-under division isn’t competitive, but to have the chance to take on Jack Simpson, Riley Graham and Scott Keegan is a great step forward,” he says.
“I’m going into the season as fit as I’ve ever been and, from previous experience, have a better understanding of what my body will tolerate.
“This season starts later than previous years and allows me more time to adapt to the Yamaha YZ250FX and find out what works for me with the Active8 team.”
And for a bloke who, as long-time mentor Lean vouches, has the ability not to rush a situation and to think things through for the best outcome, Wil is certainly not backward in coming forward.
“I expect to win E1 and place top eight overall in the AORC. I’d also like to win some tests outright to show I can run with the big-hitters.”
That’s some call.
Wil also predicts a similar result in the A4DE and hopes to make the Aussie team for the International Six Day Enduro.
“After missing out on the ISDE last year due to the Higher School Certificate, I’m looking forward to getting to France to see what European racing is all about. The enduro format has always been my favourite style of racing and to put in a good performance at the ISDE and finishing with a good team result would be great.”
The Hattah Desert race is almost a certainty as Wil is the defending 19-and-under champion, but the Finke is a ‘maybe one day’ event as he focuses on enduro. The Wildwood Rock Extreme Enduro is also on the radar as an event to pick up some technical riding skills that will assist in his ambition to contest the EnduroGP Championship in Europe.
Meanwhile, like many students who have just received their HSC results, Wil is looking for a job to help fund his racing. The hard part is persuading a potential employer that racing comes first for so many weeks of the year.
Then again, maybe Wil Ruprecht has already commenced a full-time career but hasn’t realised it yet.
Interview Peter Whitaker