12-year-old motorcycle racer takes on an international challenge
By Gary Boskovich
When most people think of children riding a bike, it’s typically the 2-wheeled variety that kids peddle around. But the bike that 12-year-old Nolan Lamkin rides is far from typical. This Creekside Middle School seventh-grader rides a bike with a 250cc engine that can reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Nolan’s passion is racing motorcycles, and he recently earned a trip to Spain to compete against racers from all over the world for a spot on the prestigious MotoGP Red Bull Rookies Cup Circuit.
Nolan started racing competitively when he was just 8 years old.
His dad, Bill Lamkin, owned a drag racing motorcycle and one day approached Nolan to ask if he wanted to get into drag racing. Nolan was already bitten by the racing bug but it wasn’t straight track drag racing he was interested in.
Nolan wanted the challenge of turns and corners, so he chose motorcycle racing instead.
“I wanted to do the turns more than anything,” Nolan said.
Although Nolan is considered a novice, he has competed against older racers on much larger bikes. And he’s had success, too, finishing either first or second in half of the races he competed in over the summer.
“I like going against motorcycles bigger than mine and passing them,” Nolan said.
He sees a smaller bike as a competitive advantage because he is much faster than the larger bikes in the twists and turns of the course. He said he can gain ground and often pass the competition in the corners.
Element of danger
There is an element of danger to MotoGP racing – especially when traveling at a speed of 120 miles per hour, which Nolan has done.
Occasionally, fear creeps into his head but Nolan said he dismisses it quickly.
“I tell myself to concentrate on the race and the fear goes away,” he said.
During a race, he focuses on the riders ahead of him and plans a strategy that allows him to catch up and pass them.
But like any road racing sport, crashes happen, so riders need to have the best protection available. Nolan has crashed twice in the past with only a bruised thumb to show for it.
And to cover the cost of equipment and traveling to races, Nolan has a few sponsors who support him. Sponsorship has many benefits, including international recognition – especially as Nolan climbs higher in the MotoGP circuit. But most of the expense burden is currently covered by his parents.
Nolan and his dad recently traveled to Spain for the Red Bull Rookies Cup Selection event held in Monteblanco, Spain, the week of Oct. 13th. In order to qualify for this event, Nolan had to submit a resume of his racing accomplishments and past experience.
Nolan was the youngest driver there and qualified for the event by a mere 3 weeks. He was competing against other American and foreign riders for a spot on the MotoGP Rookies Cup Circuit.
Judges at the event look for new talent they can mentor and develop for racing at higher levels, and it is the preferred method for breaking into Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Selection is based mostly on rider ability, but there is an added personality component.
Nolan said he just wanted to see how he stacked up against the other riders using similar equipment.
“I want to see how the Red Bull Rookies Cup Selection event runs, and if I get selected again, have a better idea on how to approach the race,” he said.
Off to the races
Nolan’s week in Spain was a full one, but races didn’t begin until Thursday. First was a practice session where Nolan wanted to get familiar with the bike he was going to race with. The second session was the real deal.
Nolan said he started off slow, still getting used to the handling of the bike. At first he was getting passed, but once he got comfortable with his ride, Nolan moved up to second place and stayed there.
Only one American rider got selected to participate in the final event on Friday. Although Nolan wasn’t the one selected, he felt he held his own against the competition.
“I did really well for it being the first year competing in this event,” he said. “I was the youngest racer over there and did really well for the amount of experience I have.”
Nolan said he already has a plan for what he needs to work on to improve.
“I’ll be trying to get on a bike more, whether it’s a racing bike or a dirt bike, and try to be involved in more racing events,” he said. “I want to eat less junk food, work out to gain strength and become more fit to be able to maneuver the motorcycle better.”
Racing aside, Nolan’s week in Spain was definitely a memorable one. He not only had a great time, but learned to enjoy some new food too. His favorites were the Spanish-style pizzas and the different sausages served over there.
“They tasted really, really good, and I ate everything in sight,” he said.
Back home again
Nolan and his dad are now home in Carmel again. After Fall Break he was able to share his travel adventures with teachers and classmates.
But the following weekend, Nolan was off to Alabama for his final race of the season.
Although the Indiana racing circuit stops at the end of October, that doesn’t mean putting the bike away for Nolan. During the cold weather months he’ll keep practicing and getting track time at courses in Indiana, Alabama and Michigan.
Aside from riding a motorcycle any chance he gets during the off season, Nolan intends to concentrate on increasing his stamina and flexibility – gearing up for 2014 and beyond.
He said he plans to work out and ride motorcycles to get more experience.
The flag drops on next year’s race season in April or May. Nolan said he intends to ramp up the number of events he participates in, and that involves extensive travel once again. The tracks he will race on are as far west as Wisconsin, as far east as Pennsylvania, as far south as Alabama, and a number of states in between.
This time next year Nolan hopes for another shot at making the Red Bull Rookies Cup Circuit.
Don’t be surprised if one day Nolan lands a spot in the Moto Grand Prix motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His dedication and talent might just get him there.