For the last decade, the Red Bull Rookies Cup has been allowing up-and-coming riders to prove themselves on professional-quality machines at world-class motorsport circuits. The league has clearly accomplished what it set out to do, as Johann Zarco was the champion of its inaugural season, followed by JD Beach. Other riders like Jake Gagne, Lorenzo Savadori and the late Luis Salom (RIP) all competed on the 125cc KTM machines that every competitor used. Red Bull seriously pulled out all the stops for the Rookies Cup with logic along the lines of “What’s a state of the art racer without a professional mechanic and support team?”. Much of the typical snafus and roadblocks faced by financially limited riders’ families had mostly gone out the window with the introduction of this series.
In 2013, the league switched over to a larger KTM 250 RBR racer as the machine every competitor would pilot. The new machines were powered by a single-cylinder 249.5cc DOHC four-stroke that made 50hp at 13,000rpm, 500rpm before the quarter-liter racer’s rev-limit. The KTM powerplants sat in a tubular steel frame with an adjustable headstock and swingarm-pivot, after being fitted with bodywork and the rest of its components, the motorcycles still only weighed 177lbs (or 80.5kgs). As a point of reference the new CBR250RR (non-ABS) weighs more than 350lbs, making KTM’s RBR less than half the weight of the CBR. (I’m aware of the reasons the CBR is heavier and that the KTM doesn’t require some of the components the Honda does).
Prior to the switch in 2013, the Rookie’s Cup ran KTM 125’s, and despite them being a little dated, these bikes possess everything you need in a competent small-displacement racer and nothing more. In 2009, 24 of the machines from the 2008 season went up for sale, with examples starting at $13,900. Though they were being piloted by kids who weren’t old enough to even possess a learners permit, let alone a driver’s license, these 125 two-strokes are professional-class machines that get much of their DNA from the bikes used in Moto3 before the class bumped up to 250’s.
The pre-2013 Red Bull Rookies Cup KTMs were powered by a 125cc two-stroke liquid-cooled single with CDI ignition that made 48 hp and 22 ft-lbs of torque at 12,800rpm. The powerful little singles were fitted with Keihin 38mm carbs and were married to six-speed transmissions. The skeleton was an aluminum twin-spar chassis that was damped by suspenders made by KTM’s in-house suspension brand: WP. The 125s also got Brembo steel disc brakes and lightweight Marchesini rims. The reason these bikes were fast was primarily thanks to every component being extremely lightweight – these machines weighed just 159.84 pounds dry.
Towards the end of 2012, Vice released a fascinating eight-part series titled “Teenage Motorcycle Racers”. It followed the lives and journeys of a handful of promising young riders, including a middle-school aged Jake Gagne, Benny Solis, Hayden Gilim and Sturla Fagerhaug. The series includes extensive footage of the races and tells the story of an entire season, giving a decent glimpse of what this and of life actually entails for these juvenile professionals, and explores some of the pressure they deal with. Then entire series is a bit lengthy, with each episode’s duration being around 15 minutes, and even though it’s from half a decade ago, it’s nonetheless a great watch that I’ve actually viewed on a number of occasions. It’s also highly digestible for non-moto people too.
Now, on to the actual bike that’s for sale. I’ll start by saying it’s not the cleanest example cosmetically speaking. Having said that, all it appears to need is some prep work, maybe a little bondo, and a coat of paint, and you’ve got a professional race bike for less than five grand. The Metrakit Pre GP 125 is an increasingly rare scoot. This particular example is a former Red Bull Rookies Cup Bike, and is powered by a two-stroke Husqvarna engine 125. It has upgraded suspension up front with Paioli upside-down forks, and the standard WP mono-shock in back. An MK carbon exhaust and what appears to be the display from a larger sport bike are the only non-standard pieces on this machine, otherwise it looks to be (what was) a regulation Rookies Cup racer. It also comes – as you’d expect – on slicks that the seller says still have ample life on them.
The ad says the machine is incredibly fast and handles superbly, facts that are objectively true. It’s not the most high-tech or the prettiest looking racer, but it more than gets the job done, and is a perfect motorcycle to get started on for anyone that wants to get into racing or even just track riding. The price on this bike is also beyond reasonable, to the point where if I didn’t own a RS125, I might even consider buying and shipping this example. Parts are also pretty interchangeable on these, so keeping one in operation wouldn’t be too challenging logistically or anything. Again, it ain’t pretty, but damn is it a solid little racer.
You can find this bike for sale here on Craigslist on Long Island, New York with a price of just $3,500.