Teenage speed machine Joe Clayton has been battling the best in the world over the last two weekends in his international debut at the 2014 Arenacross tour.

Arenacross is a particular form of motocross motorbike racing, and 16-year-old Joe, of Moreleigh, near Totnes, has already proved himself a natural.

It is described by promoters E22 sports as 'the crazy indoor offspring of motocross racing, first conceived in America in the 1970s.

'The sport takes the most spectacular elements of outdoor racing, boils them down into a concentrated cocktail and then shoehorns them into arenas on to purpose-built dirt tracks.

'Racing is short, sharp and shockingly spectacular with huge triple jumps, killer mogul sections and fast, banked corners all designed to provide a high-octane sensory feast.'

Joe's mum's boyfriend, Andrew Savery, runs Wheeldon Farm, home to Wheeldon Off-Road Centre, the only indoor facility of its type in England, so racing was always something that has been on the cards.

Joe's dedication, however, is something that has all been down to him, and the rewards for his hours of hard work were evident when the 2014 Arenacross tour kicked off with a double header in Belfast on the weekend of January 18 and 19.

Joe is currently studying for an apprenticeship with NGB engineers at Totnes, but harbours a dream of turning pro at motorbike racing.

He says: 'I'd like to go pro ideally, I've got three more years on the rookie circuit and then hopefully I'll get picked up by a team.'

In order to achieve this goal, there is no doubt Joe is willing to put in the hours training four days a week and getting up at 5am to get in some practice before heading off to work.

He is also lucky enough to have guidance from Andrew, with whom he first started riding, and Paul Gaylard, a veteran of motorbike racing with thirty years' experience who competed internationally.

Paul says that Joe's interest in Arenacross in particular was piqued when they attended the Birmingham competition last year, the first time the sport really went mainstream.

He said: 'Last year we went to watch the Arenacross in Birmingham and straight away he knew it was something he wanted to do.'

Perhaps the best advice Joe has received, however, has come from two-time superbike world champion Troy Corser, who has had links with Wheeldon stretching back to 2011.

Joe admits that Troy, who obviously brings a wealth of experience of competing, and winning, at the highest level, has helped him a lot.

Belfast was Joe's first indoor competition, although he has been racing, despite his relatively tender age, for four years already.

He has spent the last two years racing in the Red Bull pro nationals, managing very respectable top 30 finishes, and the racing has provided some valuable experiences, particularly in July last year, as Joe explains.

He says: 'I did alright, I stayed in the top 30 for most of the rounds, apart from one where I concussed myself. My mum said I just took off the jump and ended up landing on my head.'

The cheerful abandon with which he makes this statement makes one suspect Joe views broken bones and other injuries as a mildly irritating side-effect of the racing he loves, and this suspicion is confirmed when he admits his very first race resulted in a broken wrist.

This wilful disregard for his own safety does, however, appear to be providing Joe with a good foundation on which to build his burgeoning career.

The Arenacross tour is very different from the pro nationals, with it not only being held indoors as opposed to outdoors, but also with far fewer riders on the start line, from 42 down to just 12.

Speaking about the differences between the two events, Joe said: 'The rounds are pretty much one week after the other, so it'll be a lot more intense. The pro nationals are only five rounds this year and they're spread over five months.'

He went on to joke: 'I don't mind the intensity, I think it'll be more of a problem for Andrew having to drive me around the country.'

As the sell-out crowds at Belfast can testify, this sport is one that is fast capturing not just Joe's but also the public's imagination, something that can only be good news for the South Hams' home-grown speedster, especially with news that Channel 4 will be providing coverage of this year's tour.

Racing on a 250CC four-stroke motorbike, the Belfast double header, which was held at the 10,000-capacity Odyssey Arena, saw sell-out crowds and an amazing atmosphere for Joe's indoor debut.

While quietly confident going into the event, and admitting he prefers racing indoors rather than out due to its more technical nature, this was still a massive step into the unknown for the teenage tyro.

In the event, Joe came through with flying colours, bagging a podium finish on his very first race.

Afterwards, Joe said: 'I was so happy with third in my first race. I wasn't nervous at all, but it was amazing to race in front of all those people, the stadium was a complete sell-out and the atmosphere was incredible.

'I was even faster in practice the next day, but I just got a couple of things wrong during the next race, but it's all experience.'

The second race of the double header saw Joe finish a creditable fifth, and last weekend saw Joe travel to Birmingham to pick up a sixth place finish, although he managed to record the third-fastest lap time of the day.

Speaking of his expectations now he knows what he is dealing with and with four more rounds to come beginning at Liverpool next weekend, Joe said: 'I want to get better, I can definitely get third again, I'm sure.

'I'll just be practising really hard this week before Liverpool.'

As might be expected, motorcross racing does not come cheap, and sponsorship provides a key part of a racer's ability to compete. As such, Joe is lucky to have backing from One Industries, Michelin Tires and Silkolene Oil, but he admits: 'It's still expensive, I still have to pay for the actual bike and things.'

It's clear that, when he's not travelling very fast, this young man with the world at his feet is keeping those same feet planted firmly on the ground.