Pole position in Friday's first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the Dutch TT is in the hands of 16 year old Czech Karel Hanika. After a duel with 16 year old German Florian Alt he put things beyond doubt as the tyres faded towards the end of the second 30 minute qualifying session at Assen. The reigning Cup Champion, 15 year old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri, completes the front row.
Hanika has been quick all season even though he in his 1st Rookies year and has never seen most of the tracks before, he was on pole in Silverstone even though it was new to him. He has raced at Assen previously though and this did make the task a little easier. He was fast from the start and though he ended up 3rd to Baldassarri and Alt in free practice he topped both qualifying sessions going quicker and quicker as his bike improved.
“I had a little bit of trouble in the first session and we changed the suspension at the end. The WP guys did a great job on the rear and I was very happy with it for the 2nd session, of course the rear tyre was well worn by the end but I just gave it 100% and it worked out. I like the track and it gives me the chance to ride hard and the top speed does not matter as much as at Silverstone, I hope I can get on the podium again.”
Alt was not too upset to be 2nd. “That is OK, I was a bit concerned because I had some bad front end chattering and I was struggling with it but towards the end the engineers sorted it out and now the bike is great. I only managed a couple of laps with it like that but it has made me a lot happier going into the race.”
For Baldassarri the front row is fine. “Yes I'm happy with that, of course the rear was sliding around a bit towards the end but that is the same for everyone. We did improve the bike after the free practice by changing the ride hight and through qualifying the handling was really good. I was a bit frustrated with the speed down the straight, hard to get the slipstream.”
After a couple of weekends when things did not go his way, Marcos Ramirez, one of the heroes of the 1st round in Jerez, signalled that he is going to a be threat as he qualified 4th. “I am a lot happier with that, the bike was working well all through practice and we didn't really change anything. Though I have never been here before I love the track, it is a lot of fun and I think it will be a great race,” concluded the 14 year old Spaniard.
Ivo Lopes explained that things only really worked the way he wanted towards the end when he moved up to 5th. “In free practice I just didn't have a good feeling. Then in first qualifying I realised that it was the rear suspension that just wasn't working for me. The WP guys fixed and I got going at the end of the 2nd session and now I feel really good for the race,” said the ever positive 15 year old Portuguese.
Chasing Lopes round towards the end of the session Hafiq Azmi, the 15 year old Malaysian, leapt up the leader-board to 6th but knows he still has work to do. “My lap times were not consistent, I got in behind Ivo and went fast so I know I can do it. I hope to get a good start tomorrow and fight for a place on the podium.”
A disappointed 11th fastest is Cup leader Philipp Oettl. The 16 year old German was the only one not to improve in the 2nd session after being 5th fastest in Qualifying 1 and said he had to look to himself for the solution. “It is not normal not to go faster and I really don't know why. I will look at the track map and the time sheets and work out what I am doing. We might make some small changes on the bike but mainly it has to come from me.”
Also looking to himself is Scott Deroue but for a different reason, the double Estoril winner crashed his scooter on Tuesday and is badly scraped on knees and elbows etc. “It makes it painful to ride,” explained the 16 year old Dutchman who lies 2nd in the points table and qualified 9th. “I am thinking too much about the pain and not enough about the riding.”
Race 1 starts at 16.30 CET on Friday and can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Race 2 is on Saturday at 15.30 CET.