Spanish success came after widespread and concerted training and development programmes for teens and pre-teens. Generously sponsored by Telefonica and Repsol and rigorously run by the likes of the austere Alberto Puig (former GP winner and now Repsol-Honda team manager, among other things) and former 125 champion and Marquez Svengali Emilio Alzamora, these were well-supported by the national federation as well as MotoGP rights-holders Dorna.
In this way, Spain gained importance, along with a growing number of circuits, The Spanish national championship supplanted the former European championship as the learner-class cousin to GPs. The Moto3 class now even rejoices in the title “Junior World Championship”, with the winner accorded special privileges, including under-age eligibility for the real World Championship.
The rest of the world has been catching up, led by the Red Bull Rookies Cup, founded in 2007, the conveyor belt taken by a number of current GP luminaries. Five graduates have been rewarded with world championships: Bastianini, Binder, Martin and Zarco in the smaller classes, and Joan Mir in Moto3 and MotoGP.
Red Bull followed a pattern set in Spain, riders recruited from a large number of applicants supplied with identical bikes, all KTMs and all prepared by the organisers. Regimentation included identical leathers, and even helmet ornamentation had to be pre-approved. The learners ran on full GP circuits at grand prix meetings, all eating together at the Red Bull hospitality – a self-contained academy of lucky youngsters.
Other series have followed, backed by Dorna and copying the patten closely, including the Northern European, and the Honda-supported Asia Talent Cup. A version in the United States however was short-lived, after a juvenile fatality in its early stages.