Calgary teen shows skill on 2 wheels in 2022 MotoGP North America Talent Cup
Motorcycle racer Philip DeGama-Blanchet has an impressive resume for a 14-year-old, with provincial and national titles under his belt and it's those accolades that earned him a place in the 2022 MotoGP North America Talent Cup.
DeGama-Blanchet is one of 17 riders taking part in the seven-race event, which includes one rider from Mexico, two from Canada and the rest from the U.S.
"Everyone is so competitive, it's really, really difficult to kind of keep up with them sometimes because they're so aggressive and so hungry compared to the Canadian competition," he said.
The first race was at Circuit of the Americas in Texas where the Talent Cup race took place the same weekend as the inaugural MotoGP race for the 2022 season.
"So there we were at the Circuit of the Americas, this huge circuit and grandstands and all the (video) screens," said Philip's dad, Nic Blanchet.
"And we put Phil on a bike he'd never ridden before and said, 'Off you go' and we watched him go up pit lane up into that incredible turn one like, well, I'm glad it's him and not us."
DeGama-Blanchet called the experience a surreal one.
"You exit the pit lane and once you get on track, it's actually not that bad," he said. "But it's crazy because you have all the people who are there to watch the MotoGP watching your race too and it was televised and everything, it's like, wow."
International supply chain issues meant DeGama-Blanchet didn't get his racing bike until the day before the event and he couldn't ride it because the engine needed to be broken in first.
"We spent all day Thursday heat cycling this bike to get the motor set up," said Nic. "So the first time he rode it really was Friday which is free practice one."
Other riders already had weeks with their bikes to get used to them. Another problem was DeGama-Blanchet's leather race suit didn't fit. It was too small and didn't let him move freely on the motorcycle.
"I qualified (12th)," said DeGama-Blanchet. "I was struggling with the bike and I kind of wasted my first practice because the suit didn't fit and I had to wear it and just didn't quite work out so I didn't have the best pace but I ended up scraping together (ninth) for the first race, which is Top 10, that was our goal."
Even on a motorcycle he wasn't used to, he still managed a top speed of 285 km/h. Now, father and son are preparing to head to the second race at High Planes Race Way east of Denver, Col. with all their race gear loaded into the family van.
"That's the bike, the pit tent and the tire warmers, the stands, we also get two helmets from KYT Helmets, set of boots from TCF Boots, a race suit which comes from Bison Track Gear in the U.S.," said Blanchet.
"We get the cooler things for his neck to keep him cool, MoTool gives us oil for the bike and we also get one set of tires a weekend, a package like that is probably about $18,000 Canadian."
It's an expensive venture for Nic to help his son realize his dream and sponsors help ease the financial burden.
"I've calculated we'll do about 45,000 kilometers this year," he said. "I did 10,000 In April alone."
DeGama-Blanchet spent a few days at the Area 27 race track in Oliver, B.C. getting used to his new bike after the first race weekend.
"So now I understand the way the bike turns a bit more, the way it brakes and how to use the engine braking more as opposed to just the front and back brakes," he said.
Now he's looking forward to his next outing and the chance at a higher placing in the race against his competitors all looking for a seat one day with a MotoGP team.
"It's just a group of great people," said DeGama-Blanchet. "But they are very, very competitive and that's something that we've had to learn once we head into America, like it's a shock because in Canada I show up and I win most of the races that I'm in."
Learn more about DeGama-Blanchet and his race team online.