With the Red Bull Rookies Cup finished and just one race to go in the Moto3 Junior World Championship Rory Skinner’s 2016 season is almost complete. The youngster from Perth in Scotland just turned 15 last week and we caught up with him in Jerez.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve had the opportunity of a chat with Rory Skinner, but unlike the other times I met Skinner he hadn’t high-sided at the circuit of Speed and worn the skin from his little finger down to the bone just a couple of hours earlier. He had been running in the leading group. He had been battling with the likes of Marcos Ramirez, Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Raul Fernandez at the front of the race. One lap he would be sixth and the next up to third such was the competitiveness and small margins between these riders. He had the pace to run with the championship leaders for 12 laps. That is until he was pushed wide in turn six and having to re-adjust got on the gas a fraction too early and was flung from the Racing Steps Foundation FTR KTM.
If you looked only at the standings table of the Moto3 JWC championship then you could be forgiven for thinking he has not done well this year. But the table paints a false picture of Rory Skinner’s 2016. The results haven’t come and he has only scored one point this season. But if you scratch below the surface there have been some real positives in the championship. Before his crash in the first race in Valencia Rory Skinner had spent time leading the race. In Catalunya he had another big crash on the Friday but finished race one in fifteenth. At Portimao he qualified in third position. Then just this last weekend at Jerez Skinner was on the pace all weekend. He was racing with the championship leaders until the crash.
But if you need to find further proof of his ability then it is easier to see in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. There it has been transferred into points. Skinner has had a good season finishing the year in sixth position on 103 points. It could have been better but for the accident in the Moto3 JWC at Valencia in April. He broke his wrist which meant he missed the first two rounds of the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
He returned to Red Bull action at the third round in Assen. Despite missing the first free practice session because of flight delays, things were looking good. Skinner qualified sixth for the races. “I came back at Assen. In race one I was in the fight for the podium and was catching the leader when the person in front of me crashed and I had nowhere to go, I ended up hitting their bike”, he said. Fortunately he was uninjured, the wrist was fine and Skinner went back out in race two. He was in the front three that broke away, finishing 13 seconds ahead of the fourth place rider and over twenty from the chasing pack. Skinner put his Red Bull KTM RC250 on the final step of the podium.
At the new Red Bull Ring in Austria Skinner was placed 8th and 9th having qualified in 19th position. In both races he was in the second group of riders battling for fourth place. In race one just 0.626 seconds split the riders from fourth to eighth and in race two it was a similar story down to ninth place.
At Brno in the Czech Republic Skinner was fourth in race two finishing just behind Ayumu Sasaki, who won the Red Bull Rookies Cup this year. He was only three tenths from second position.
It was even tighter at the front in Misano. He crossed the line in sixth place in a thrilling end to the race. “There was some confusion with the race positions with a lot of people going off track limits. “I wouldn’t say it was a dirty race but there were some moves that were borderline”, he told us. Race direction amended some riders positions but Skinner’s result remained unchanged. From first to sixth the time difference was a mere 0.298 seconds. Again Skinner showed his ability to run at the front of these races.
The final round was at Aragon where Skinner has previously got two podium finishes in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. He had another good weekend finishing third in the first race. “I ran off the track, dropped back to last place and then worked my way back through. I got to the leading group, with seven laps to go, and kind of just sat there until the last couple of laps then I started to make my move.” The second race he also had another incident that saw him drop to the back of the field. Again he showed great pace and skill to work his way back to fourth in the closing stages. He said,” I was completely dead last. There was about a couple of seconds between me and the next rider. I got through to the group battle for fourth and got into fourth, but I got slip-streamed down the back straight and dropped to ninth”. He managed to recover one place to finish in eighth after a second superb recovery in the same weekend.
Mature, calm, level-headed, analytical, and enthusiastic are just some of the words that came to mind when I stepped out of the team motor home at Jerez last weekend, having reviewed Rory’s year with him.
Another good year for the young Scot and another step on his inevitable road to the MotoGP paddock.