They are the word’s every parent dreads, ‘I want to ride a motorcycle.” Not so for the parents of Kevin Keyes from Edenderry, County Offaly. Two months before his 3rd birthday, Kevin got astride his first motorcycle, a Yamaha PW50 he has and loves to this day.
Roll on three years and a visit to Athboy Karting Track, where a poster of a Minimoto Racing Club lit the fire to race motorcycles in Kevin that has burned brightly since. Kevin was not yet 6 years old, the small impediment that you had to be 7 to start racing bypassed and after acquiring a suitable bike and getting acclimatised to it, Kevin lined up on the grid at Nutts Corner, County Antrim for his first race – it was his 6th Birthday.
And so it began, where with the full support of his Mum and Dad, Ann and Ron and his biggest fan, sister Jessica, Kevin began honing his skill and racecraft at an age when other kids of his age were absorbed in Lego.
Kevin went from minimoto’s to mini gearbox motorcycles and became Irish Champion in 2009, when he was 11 years old. He then got the chance to step up to a full-size race-bike, an Aprilia RS125. This posed an age-issue again for Kevin, as to undergo track days here in Southern Ireland, he had to be 18 years old, a factor he bypassed by travelling to Northern Ireland.
In 2010 Kevin began racing the Aprilia RS125 and took many podium positions, including a race win, becoming in doing so, the youngest rider to win a race at the Mondello Park circuit. At the end of 2011 Kevin came under the wing of DC Racing, a team run by ex-250 racer Denis Clancy, the son of a racer, Denis Snr, someone entrenched in the professional ways of motorcycle race preparation and competition. If further evidence was required of his talent and the benefits of having Denis at his side, Kevin went out and became the 2012 Irish Champion, breaking three lap records in the process – DC Racing was making its mark.
That year of 2012, Kevin also became the Adelaide Masters 125 Champion, collecting awards from Enkalon club, where they presented their Clubman’s award to Kevin on winning the Production 125 championship, lifting the Best Rider of the Year Trevor Steele (Wheels) Cup. Another award to Kevin’s burgeoning mantelpiece was the Sean Hurley #109 award.
This year Kevin was selected to take part in a two-day race trial overseen by Jonathon Rea Red Bull. Competing under the guidance of DC Racing against 28 other top riders, Kevin won a place at the Moto GP Red Bull Rookies Cup 2014, which takes place this October, its secret location yet to be announced. This highly competitive event gathers the best young riders from around the world, whose future can be with a professional Moto GP Team, a huge acknowledgement of Kevin’s talent and dedication to be in the mix.
Now at the close of the 2013 race season, Kevin has retained his Adelaide Masters Moto3 Champion tag on his DC Racing Honda RS125 GP bike. He has also retained the Irish Southern Centre Champion title and added the Moto3 Newcomers Championship to his ever-growing list of honours.
The very affable Kevin is still learning the art of racing and consumes all the advice Denis Clancy can infuse into him. Their partnership, along with the quiet affirmation of Dad, Ron, is working really well as they prepare for next season and the next level.
During the off-season, DC Racing have ensured that Kevin’s training programme is very intensive, with gym work and bike-fit outings on his Honda motocross bike. All of this will be alongside the importance of his preparation for the Leaving Certificate in two years time.
It is hard to believe that this 15 year-old schoolboy has achieved so much in the highly competitive and risk-filled world of motorcycle racing. He has just completed his Junior Cert at Oakland’s Community College in Edenderry County Offaly. In keeping with his dedication to his love of motorcycle racing, his results were top class.
One had better get in line for tickets – this guys future is going to be a sell-out!!
By Tony Toner, BeepBeep.ie Motoring Correspondent.