Steven Odendaal: Making it in Europe is tough
Motorsport is very much a global sport, enjoyed by people around the world. But the opportunities to compete at the highest level are not the same all over the world. Making it to Formula 1 from outside of Europe is not easy, and it’s much the same in motorcycle racing. Only three riders on the 2019 MotoGP grid hail from another continent.
Steven Odendaal – the star of the latest RaceCoin podcast – was born in Johannesburg in South Africa, where he started his career on two wheels. In 2016 he became Moto2 European champion, and he’s now competing in the world championship, although an injury has delayed the start to his season.
“It isn’t as simple as people think,” he says of his recovery. “You lose your touch on the bike. This injury has been really difficult for me to deal with. It’s taken three months and I still need another operation to finally fix the problem. But having been out for so long, I’ve been so excited just to get back on the bike.”
The injury setback is just the latest hurdle that Odendaal has had to overcome in his career.
“I haven’t yet made it quite where I want to make it, but it’s been quite a long road getting to where I have, seeing as I’ve come from South Africa. Especially making the transition into Europe has been a really tough thing because you don’t know exactly where to go, you don’t know who to speak with, which teams are good and which teams are bad.
“I’m glad I’m in Europe and racing in the Moto2 World Championships. It’s a real pleasure for me and doing what I love, it’s a really fantastic thing.”
The next steps
Although he was successful in South Africa, it then took time for Odendaal to find the right conditions to perform in a new environment.
“It was a little bit of trial and error. You’ve got a lot of people that are trying to mess you over, make as much money as they can, steal your sponsors and stuff like that. We could have cut two or three years off of my whole career by knowing the right people.
“If I could do it all over again and I knew what I know today, I would definitely start out in Spain, because Spain is the hub of racing. They have soccer, they have god and then they have motorcycle racing – it’s like the third biggest thing they’ve got! In Spain you’re going to end up with a decent team to start with, it doesn’t matter which one.
“Obviously there’s quite a nice business opportunity in South Africa to start something up that could be the same sort of level, because some of the riders that have come out of South Africa have been really good. But at the moment I just have to focus on myself and try to win the Moto2 world title.”
RaceCoin intends to help competitors to demonstrate their talent regardless of their location with its phantom racing platform. By allowing the performance of drivers on different circuits on different cars to be compared using blockchain, it could help those like Steven to get noticed, whether they’re from South Africa, South Korea or the south of Spain.