Just as it is every car enthusiast’s dream to be in Formula 1, every motorcycle rider fantasizes about racing neck-and-neck with Marc Marquez. Unfortunately, easy access to motorcycles, poor discipline, and questionable skills all too often demonstrate to us how every wannabe road racer is more Quarta-araro than the next Valentino Rossi. It’s come to a point where favorite routes like Marilaque have become dicey if you just want to enjoy a relaxed ride—who knows if some idiot will overshoot the next bend and plow right into you?
The often-repeated statement is: “If you want to see how fast you really are, take it to the track.” In a controlled environment, with no one else but like-minded individuals and preferably a coach, you can test your skills and tune your bike to your heart’s content. It’s going to cost you some money, but the lessons you will learn there are invaluable.
One such rider who has taken the deep dive into professional racing is our very own McKinley Kyle Paz. Only 20 years old, Kyle is the first Filipino to compete in the Moto2 European Championship. Moto2 is a stepping stone to MotoGP, and this is where teams look for potential hires into the big leagues. Moto2 bikes are fantastic machines. With a chassis weighing only 150kg and all bikes using the same 765cc Triumph engine, being competitive is all about suspension tuning, rider skill, and experience.
A precocious talent who won the 2019 Asia Road Racing Championship in the UB150 class, Kyle (with the backing of Yamaha) was selected for the VR46 Master Camp team. It’s quite a jump from racing underbones to a supersport that can tickle 300km/h on the straights and where the average speed in the corners is much higher than the expressway speed limit. Wannabe racers only want to show off their “bengking-bengking” skills for the cameras, but Kyle has done hundreds of these in only a few months as he’s chasing after points and shaving those elusive hundredths off a second per lap.
As a relative greenhorn to the class, it’s important to manage our expectations with our champion. Especially so in a culture that only pays attention to athletes when they win big, but rarely ever when they’re still climbing up the ranks.
In the four race weekends that he’s competed in so far (Moto2 has two races per weekend), Kyle has been all about gaining experience and confidence to gradually improve his performance. He retired in three races, which is polite-speak for crashing (or the bike having mechanical problems), and that’s not a knock on his reputation.
On the contrary, all racers need to push a bike to its limits, and the adage “if you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough” applies. But it’s about getting back up, learning from the mistakes, and going out for a better attempt.
Kyle currently sits in 16th place in the standings out of 27 riders, having amassed valuable points in Algarve (Portugal), Aragon (Spain) and Jerez (Spain). That’s pretty solid for a rookie who has to play catch-up in a field dominated by Europeans with a strong racing culture. When I asked Kyle what his most memorable experience so far was, he said it was at Algarve where he started in the fourth row on the grid and gradually made his way up the field for an impressive seventh-place finish. It was only his second race weekend for the season, yet he finished ahead of some more experienced riders. He’ll be looking to gain even more points as the championship resumes.
Kyle may be living the dream, but he knows he has a long climb to the top. With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, he has the potential to really make it big one day.
In the meantime, we can all get behind him and do our part to promote responsible motorcycling. Ride safely and responsibly, and if you must, satisfy your adrenaline rush with some track time. After all, if a skilled racer like Kyle is still learning the ropes (so to speak), then so must everyone else.