On 15 October, Jaden Gunawardena, 13, will fly to the Guadix Circuit in Spain to compete in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookie Cup Qualifiers. Jaden is the youngest and only Sri Lankan to be invited to this prestigious international event where he will be competing against the best rookie riders from around the world.
Since 2007, the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup has given wings to teenagers who strive for a career in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. The competition takes rookie riders around the classic Grand Prix circuits of Europe, including in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic and San Marino. Red Bull provides each rookie with a global platform to hone their talents and have the opportunity to meet their Grand Prix heroes to gain insight, inspiration and training tips to help to elevate their rider careers.
Even at 13 years old, Jaden Gunawardena has probably earned more podium finishes than most senior motorcycle racers in Sri Lanka have ever had in a lifetime. Born on 9 April 2002, the rookie rider has racked up over 25 podium finishes at a junior level and over 75 podium finishes on a national level. Jaden had his first taste of racing when he was just five years old when he participated in local Motocross events and has racked up over 100 dirt track trophies since.
At such a young age, it comes as no surprise that Jaden holds a number of records such as the youngest rider ever to have won a championship in Sri Lanka, the youngest to win a 15-lap Grand Prix at Mirigama on a 125cc bike in the 1000cc open event and also the youngest podium finisher at both the Colombo and Kandy Night Races.
At age eight, Jaden made history as the first rider in Asia to represent his country at that age when he took part at the Asian Round in India and Sugo Japan on a 150cc motorcycle. More recently, Jaden also took part in the Asian 250cc round of the two-hour endurance race at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan as one of Asia’s top 20 riders.
Jaden competes with the number 33, the same as his father and coach, Shane Gunawardena, who was also once was a motorbike racer in the early eighties. Gunawardena explained: “In a sport where facilities for optimal performance are hard to come by, this is not only the perfect platform for young riders like Jaden to grow, but also the ideal opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase its talent in the global motorsport arena.”