First time on a road bike leads to racing at the MotoGP
A YOUNG motorbike prodigy will be racing at Phillip Island during the MotoGP after landing himself a spot in a prestigious training academy.
For Henry Snell, the acceptance into the academy is made even more amazing as it was his first time ever riding a road bike.
The young thirteen-year-old from Bowen has been making waves in dirt track racing for some time with wins across the state to back it up.
However, the trip to Melbourne to compete at the Victorian Junior Cup and compete in selection trials for the Oceania Junior Cup Academy was the first time he had taken to the bitumen.
The Oceania Junior Cup Academy gives young racers the opportunity to ride fully supplied, transported and mechanically attended Yamaha YZF-R15 at races around Australia and is a stepping stone to the international professional circuit.
Henry's father, Rodger Snell, said it was an experience they were hesitant about approaching at first.
"Henry had no experience at all when it came to road bikes and racing on tarmac, so, to be honest, we weren't sure if we might have been wasting our time travelling to Victoria," he said.
"However we're close friends with someone in Townsville who competed in the 2019 Oceania Junior Cup and after speaking to their family they said we'd be stupid to not give him a go at it.
"Henry wants to transition to tarmac and road racing so it was a good chance, although we still weren't sure how he'd go."
The first challenge was finding a road bike, and some track experience for Henry so he 'didn't go in blind'.
Luckily, Damian Cudlin who was the official coach for the 2019 Oceania Junior Cup, suggested he race in a three-day event before the selection day and loaned him a bike to ride.
"He actually got out there and rode really well," Snell said.
"He wasn't first but he wasn't last, and that was impressive considering that the people he was racing do this regularly. He was only four seconds off the winner."
When selection day came, Snell said he was worried but Henry 'went out there and impressed.'
"He listened to the coaches, and that's what they want to see just as much as sheer talent," he said.
"This program is an expensive investment by Motorcycling Australia, with every one of the racers costing them about $50,000 dollars all up, and it's about grooming them to be the next MotoGP riders so they need to listen.
"There was one hiccup where he got caught in a battle with another racer on the track and had a crash. A medical assessment and a repaired bike and he was back out there though."
Henry will now compete in 6 Rounds of the program next year, with one of them to take place at the iconic Phillip Island round of the MotoGP.
Snell said it was an opportunity that could lead to big things for his son.
'It's such an expensive sport and there's no way we could have given him this opportunity ourselves, so this is amazing," he said.
"He looks up to Jack Miller who started on dirt flat track, so he knows where you can begin from. He even rode with his number, 43, and hopes to keep it.
"2020 will be a big year for him, one racer from this years program is now racing in Moto3 in Europe so there are some serious opportunities."
Henry is sponsored by Mackay and Townsville Kawasaki, Bowen Motorcycles, S&W Crane Hire, Pat McDonnell Earthmoving, Lowcock Builders, Grandview Hotel, Snells Electrical.