Bike insurance company Bennetts has announced it will provide backing to two young riders following a nationwide search to discover and support two motorcycling prospects from a grassroots level.
Josh Owens, 14 from Liverpool, and Rory Skinner, 12 from Perth have been officially unveiled to the media at Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire. Owens and Skinner will join MotoGP star Scott Redding, British Moto3 champion Joe Francis and TV adventurer Charley Boorman as Bennetts' sponsored riders, after impressing a selection panel that included two-time Superbike World Champion James Toseland, who has also offered to mentor the young stars.
The pair will receive advice and support from Bennetts ambassador and World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson.
“Josh and Rory stood out from a shortlist of over 150 very talented young riders,” he said. “They're both incredibly motivated and passionate about motorcycling, but it was their outstanding racing success that really caught the judging panel's attention.
“Scott [Redding], Charley [Boorman], Joe [Francis] and I are thrilled that Josh and Rory will be joining us in representing Bennetts, and no one will be following their progress more closely over the coming months and years than we will!
“I wouldn't be where I am today without people's belief in me and my abilities when I started racing professionally. For these two youngsters to get backing from a market leader like Bennetts is a huge boost, and the support that Josh and Rory will receive will undoubtedly accelerate their already thriving careers.
“Over the years Bennetts has demonstrated its commitment to the growth of British motorcycling, and the Grass Roots campaign is a fantastic example of the brand's continued and unwavering support.”
Owens' prodigious record has seen him win back-to-back-to-back titles in the MiniGP classes between 2010 and 2012, before moving to the British 125cc championships with a self-run team in 2013. Despite his inexperience and a limited budget, Josh impressed racing experts and scored a fifth place in the final race of the season. With Bennetts backing, the youngster will join the experienced RCD Motorsport team for 2014, where he will receive expert guidance and a competitive race bike.
Despite his tender age, Skinner has titles in the 50cc and 70cc MiniGP classes, in 2011 and 2012. Last year, as soon as he was old enough, he made a one-off appearance in the Aprilia Challenge, a prestigious one-make series that lists world champions Cal Crutchlow, Chaz Davies and Casey Stoner among its alumni.
Riding a borrowed machine at a circuit he had never ridden before, the pre-teen Scot won on his debut to become the youngest ever race winner in the history of the championship. For 2014, he will undertake a full campaign in the series, with Bennetts backing supporting his travelling costs throughout the year.