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As junior racing takes a more central focus in Australia, we catch up with Aussie ex-racer Damian Cudlin who saw the potential eight years ago.

The whole junior scene has changed a lot since you started MotoStars?

Yes, we started MotoStars back in 2016 when there wasn’t much in the way of junior road racing in Australia. During that time a lot of kids tried it and liked it, and that led to us establishing a race series.

Then Covid happened and everything was shut down. It really killed the momentum of the racing side of MotoStars but, at the same time, other series started to pop up.

All of a sudden people were spoiled for choice, so we decided to leave the racing to everyone else and move back to where we started, which is coaching.

Damian Cudlin

Max Stauffer is a future star of ASBK and a product of the Cudlin development ethos

What are you running in terms of coaching now?

We do monthly days at Port Macquarie kart track as well as elite camps. The camps are held over four days at our property in Kempsey and cover a wide range of disciplines. We do road racing, dirt track, motocross, enduro, physical training – as well as career planning.

Cudlin with Paris Hardwick at the recent St George Night Series

I see you’re helping out Paris Hardwick at the BC Performance team. He is a very different proposition to a regular racer.

Paris is one of those guys who started by coming to our events at the kart track, then he came to an elite camp. I think he’s a really interesting prospect because he hasn’t had that ‘racing on dirt track in nappies’ type of beginning. His family is unique though. His mum was a world-ranked professional surfer, his dad was a professional snowboarder, his brother is a world-ranked snow boarder – so the whole family is very sports minded. It’s just that Paris has chosen motorbikes.

He’s skipped a lot of the steps along the way by riding a few trackdays with his dad, going fast and deciding to go road racing. Now he’s riding for BC Performance in the ASBK championship.

It’s been a quick progression and I think he is doing phenomenally well considering how green he is. But he has missed some of those crucial steps along the way so that’s my job now; to work with him and build up his skill set and his confidence.

Damian Cudlin

Cameron Dunker is another former MotoStars graduate starting to shine in ASBK

We’ve got accessible junior development in Australia now, but one thing that sticks out to me is if a rider has aspirations to join the MotoGP paddock, there is a huge leap to take from domestic competition to something like the Asia Talent Cup. That’s the first time a young person might even throw a leg over a Moto3 bike.

You’ve highlighted a hole, and that’s the Moto3 category. If you happen to own a Moto3 bike you can do the odd club or trackday but that is clearly a hole for any of these young kids coming up with ambitions of competing in the world championship.

It’s a tricky one. Depending on where you’re at with your skillset, age and ability – that will depend on the pathway we’d advise someone to pursue. If you’re 13 years old, way above average with multiple national championships and want to be MotoGP world champion I’d be steering you out of domestic competition to the Asia Talent Cup or Red Bull Rookies. It’s a big leap, yes, but it is an opportunity to showcase what you can do in front of the GP paddock – and that was never around when I was a kid.

Hudson and Carter Thompson get ready to hit the track at the Night Series in January

Junior development can be a slow burn. Carter and Hudson Thompson, Archie McDonald, Max Stauffer, Cameron Dunker – all MotoStars kids we are starting to see shine.

They are the first batch of guys we were working with from the start. Their exposure and learning from an early age has clearly paid off. A big factor is the parents, and good people attract more good people.

Heath Griffin deserves a lot of credit. He was a sponsor of mine when I was racing and he’s supported MotoStars from the beginning. His vision when we started the race team was to help someone with potential that didn’t necessarily have large amounts of money. Heath supported them the whole time, putting the money in and giving them the time to progress without pressure, having time to grow. There’s not many people like that around.

Hardwick gets his race face on

You’ve seen a lot in the MotoGP paddock. What’s your take on Liberty buying out Dorna?

I don’t know any of the juicy gossip, I’ve just been looking at it from the outside like everyone else. But when I was working with Fox Sports I noticed all the contracts that Dorna were renewing with the circuits were being made long term.

It made me wonder why they were doing that, and I thought the only logical reason would be if Dorna wanted to sell up, and here we are.

Will it be good? We’ll see. They’ve made a big impact with Formula 1.

Hardwick is going places with BC Performance

What about the recent developments in aero and electronics? Are you for or against?

I see both sides. The bikes have changed dramatically in a few years. Grand Prix is about development and manufacturers building the best machine possible, plus those tech advancements eventually filter down to the consumer. That’s what keeps manufacturers wanting to participate.

But it’s also a show and if it becomes boring or monotonous then nobody will watch it. There is a balance and lately I’ve noticed a lot less overtaking than there was a few years ago – and that’s a problem.

If innovation starts to erode the show, then they have to limit its use, and I think that will happen.