The World Superbike series has been a prestigious home for many riders over the years, both of MotoGP and WSBK backgrounds. Some, such as Cal Crutchlow for example, have found victory in both categories, where as others such as Jonathan Rea, have flourished entirely in the master class. The WorldSBK paddock has also recently opened its gates even wider to the youth that wish to follow in these footsteps.
The release of a new category in the WSBK paddock has given the opportunity for many young riders to be able to delve into the world of racing and showcase their talents on the world stage. That category? World Supersport 300.
This new lightweight class not only encourages young riders to step up to the plate, but manufacturers too. There are four approved manufacturers at the beginning of the season, but others are welcomed with the correct paperwork. Even from the get-go, the new championship appears to be one of encouragement that grows with the riders and teams.
However, it isn’t just new manufacturers joining the class. This gave the opportunity of growth for a particular platform: Yamaha’s bLU cRU.
The bLU cRU concept is to cultivate and support the next generation of riding talent, both on and off the track. In regards to WSSP300, bLU cRU gave six riders the chance of competing internationally while experiencing the professionalism and encouragement of such a prestige platform. It also brought about the bLU cRU challenge for these six riders, in which the top rider at the end of the season will move up to an official Yamaha team in a higher class – as if the new series wasn’t exciting enough!
Of the six riders is Mykyta Kalinin, who has stood out to many in the paddock. As one of only two Ukrainian riders, Mykyta – also known as Nick – came to WSSP300 with some experience under his belt. Competing in the MotoGP Red Bull Rookies Cup for two years, Nick had an idea of the world-racing scene, however the Rookies Cup came as a complete learning curve for Nick, more so than that of joining the WSBK paddock.
“When I came to Rookies Cup, it was the first year in road racing for me. I had skills, but there was no experience. I had to work in each training to understand a new bike for me and adapt to world championship level tracks. It was difficult, because other guys had already had several seasons in the European, World championships or it was home tracks for them, when I had to start work from the beginning. But maybe such a difficult start gave me the motivation to fight every race and go to the goal. So when I came in WSSP300 – first year was much easier than in the Rookies Cup. I learned a lot in Rookies and I had an opportunity to ride on Yamaha R3 in winter.”
The step up between classes also meant a change in bike, heading away from the 250cc KTM and towards the R3 Yamaha. There are almost always benefits as well as drawbacks when it comes to such a move in the motorcycling world. However, it appears that Nick’s move was the right one:
“After two seasons in Rookies Cup it was important to make right step. We had proposed to ride in CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship, European Talent Cup Moto3. But also we had news about new category in WorldSBK. Supersport 300 is World Championship with a high level of competition, strong rivals and big media support. I got a good contract with my team MotoXracing, that is official Yamaha team in Stock 1000. This team already had big experience in road racing. Also Yamaha gave me the opportunity to grow as a professional rider due to Yamaha’s youth talent development program, bLU cRU. I like Moto3 bike but now I’m sure that it was right decision.”
With rivals such as Marc Garcia and Alfonso Coppola, who come mostly from countries that flourish in road racing, Nick’s experience lies with that of Supermoto and Motocross, as well as Jet Ski – perhaps lacking in road racing due to the minuscule opportunities presented by the Ukraine, as opposed to that of Spain or Italy. This also plays into the training Kalinin receives at present:
“In Ukraine I have an opportunity to ride on one big track and a couple of kartodromes. But by European standards our big track more seems like motocross or races for survival.
The only chance for me now have normal training process is to go in winter to Spain and training different types of motorcycles. But it’s expensive way that I, and other young riders from Ukraine, have to do. I would like to have even one good track in my country. It will help to grow popularity of motorcycle sport here.”
This also brings into question the budget issues a lot of young riders face, especially those coming from countries – such as Ukraine – where motorcycle racing is either unpopular or underfunded. While many fans watch the sport they love regularly, only a scarce amount look into what it takes to become a part of the racing scene, let alone what it costs. Some even go to the length of complaining about those covered in sponsors – you never see the likes of Marc Marquez without some sort of logo. But the truth is that sponsors have a very large role when it comes to a rider’s career, and when you’re from somewhere such as Ukraine, every sponsor is important.
“It’s not an easy thing for any rider. I would like that to ride you will need only talent, but unfortunately for the start of carreer or even for trainings, tests you need to find money. Budget for a season for me is really big, especially if you know how hard the situation in Ukraine is now. But I was lucky to meet a few years ago a good friend from USA – Devin Battley. He has the same passion as I. He supported me in Rookies Cup and when he knew that this year I needed help to continue my carreer, he helped me. Devin always supports me and I believe that soon we will get victory.”
Of course, the path of a young rider in WSBK can be different to the experiences of those in MotoGP. Nick has been lucky enough to experience both championships first-hand, and has been able to grow thanks to the involvements he has had over the past three years. On the topic of expenses, we looked into the differences between competing in WSSP300 to that of Rookies Cup:
“The financial aspects of these two championships are really different. From my personal experience, Rookies Cup is a great opportunity to make first step in the big world of motorsport. You can learn from the best trainers on the best tracks and main costs are covered by organisers. But anyway when you finish this school, in most cases you will need budget to make next step. There are a lot of championships now: European, world championships or national. You just need to use all that you have learned in the past, have people who believe in you and make decision. But also there are examples of riders who managed to achieve heights in WSBK and then successfully go to MotoGP and show even better results. And I want to be one of those in the future.”
One of the considerably most memorable experiences for Nick from this year has been the opportunity to travel to the infamous Tavullia to take part in the 4th MasterCamp – the admired Camp selects a limited group of Yamaha riders to spend a week training alongside the VR46 crew, and undergo the regime the Academy riders face in preparation for their next races on the world stage of MotoGP. The bLU cRU riders were luckily to be the next to be invited. Nick proved to make the most out of his week in Italy, taking the win the MiniGP and overall enjoying his time there.
“This is another point for which I must thank Yamaha. Experience of close communication with racers of VR46 academy and The Doctor himself already sounds good and if you consider that this was accompanied by daily training on the famous ranch and Misano circuits. So I got an unforgettable experience, which I hope to repeat in the future.”
Of course, Rossi isn’t the only person to mentor Nick this year. The undeniable relationship that Nick has with his father, Pavel Kalinin, is a special one. As an ex racer himself, Pavel proves to be an incomparable mentor for Nick, and has stood by him through every step of his career, so I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Kalinin deserves a bit of merit when it comes to the exceptional talent of Nick!
Naturally, to be chosen to be a part of the Yamaha family is a huge opportunity, but does the bLU cRU challenge add more competition to a rider’s season, considering there’s a 600 ride up for grabs?
“Yes! I am very grateful to the Yamaha that they gave me the chance to be a part of this program. The fact that Yamaha chose me, believed in me adds motivation. And of course bLU cRU riders always are paid much attention on Paddock Show, from fans and the interview. In addition the opportunity to get into the Supersport 600 class next year makes us work even harder.”
Considering the attention that not only the Yamaha riders receive, the importance of presentation each rider must hold is substantial. How can you gain fans if you aren’t willing to be friendly? As a member of bLU cRU, Nick is often in the media’s attention. But should social and media attention be encouraged towards young riders?
“Yes, it helps us to develop our social skills. It’s another side of racing. To be successful you must be good at social and media work from the first step. For professional riders it’s not only about racing. If you look at Rossi, he always tries to make time for his fans and knows how to co-operate with attention from the media.”
With the switch up from Rookies Cup last year to WSSP300 this year, Nick has experienced new circuits as well as a new racing schedule. With fans of the Rookies Cup often being indulged to two races in a weekend, the new class of the WSBK paddock has a different set up, and one considerably more alike to the MotoGP layout than the Rookies Cup.
“For me both calendars are good and I enjoy every track that I am riding. Unfortunately, by the beginning of WSSP300 season I knew only half of the tracks on which I had to ride, but it will be not a problem next year. For example I got a podium in Imola this year, on the track where I was riding first time. But if I can change one thing– I would like to have more time on the track in race weekend. If you are first time riding on a track, didn’t have tests there – one hour before Superpole or qualifying and race not always enough.”
However, even while being a stranger to a number of tracks, Nick managed to accomplish his first podium at Imola, showcasing the true talent of the Ukrainian, much to the excitement of his fans. Of course, this leads to the all-important question: Will we be seeing more of those in 2018?
“Haha, of course I hope to reach many more podiums next year. Also it would not be bad to compete for the podium at the final round in Jerez.”
Just what we like to hear!
We wish Nick all the best in Jerez this weekend and will be with him every step into 2018, as I’m sure many others will!
To keep up to date on Nick’s career, you can follow his social accounts, or check out his website: