Rookies Cup | Lopes snatches home pole in Estoril
Ivo Lopez stole pole position with the last breath of qualifying for this weekend's Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup races at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril. The 15 year old Portuguese had been on the leader-board throughout and chased round the last few laps with 16 year old Czech Karel Hanika. The pair pushed each other faster with Hanika less than 4 tenths slower to claim 2nd place on the grid on their final lap.
Bradley Ray, the 14 year old Briton and 16 year old German Florian Alt were ahead of them on track and also charging round together to take 1st and 2nd on the timing screen until being pushed back by Lopez and Hanika a few seconds later.
“That was great fun,” said Lopez as he 'high-fived' with Hanika in the pit lane. “We were chasing each other and going fast but it was hard to get the lap times because there were quite a few riders out there not going so quick. The bike is great, we are having fun and I think we can do the same in the race,” concluded the home track hero.
Hanika was every bit as pleased. “It was really great fun in that session, towards the end the rear tyre was really worn and sliding around a lot but we won't have that problem in the race. The bike setting is good and I can't wait for tomorrow.” The blond Czech is in his 1st Rookies season but took to the KTM and the Estoril track at the pre-season test where he was 3rd fastest.
Alt was 2nd fastest at that test, won the opening race of the season and headed the table for much of qualifying only to be denied at the close. “That's OK, things just got a bit crazy in the last lap, I was trying for a good time, I'm not sure what some of the other riders were doing. Of course I would like to have got pole but the race is another thing, I did a lot of fast laps and I hope I can get on the podium, or even win,” he concluded with a grin.
It was Brad Ray who pushed Alt onto the 2nd row and the bespectacled teen admitted he took advantage of the German ahead even though he too had been on the leader-board anyway. “Sure it helped, just right for that last lap. The bike is good though, we only changed it a little from the test because it was working pretty well then. I think it's going to be a good race,” affirmed the Briton who led race one in Jerez before crashing.
5th fastest was Hafiq Azmi, the 14 year old Malaysian. “I am much happier with that. I still had some problems with the bike under braking. The rear is jumping around all over. I will have a talk to the technicians and see if they can help with something for the race.”
Scott Deroue, the 16 year old Dutchman qualified an excellent 6th while 14 year old Briton Kyle Ryde was lucky to be 7th even though he was fastest at the pre-season test and obviously had the pace in qualifying. He was struck down with appendicitis half way through the first session and taken to the medical centre. The pain subsided enough for him to go out in the 2nd session where he was quick again only to be forced back into the pits with the stomach pain. A drink, and he went out again gritting his teeth and determined. Then the bike seized. Fortunately he had done enough for a decent place on row 3 and must hope that both his bike and his body are in better shape for the races.
Another man with bike problems was Philipp Oettl, the German who celebrated his 16th birthday on Thursday, was only 11th fastest after his bike stopped with electrical problems. Cup leader and defending champion Lorenzo Baldassarri, the 15 year old Italian, is alongside him on the grid in 12th place. “I managed to get the bike working a bit better towards the end of that session but I was struggling very badly earlier and I just could not progress any more during the session. Hopefully the race will be better.”
Estoril's 1st race is at 17.30 CET on Saturday with Sunday's at 17.00 and both can be viewed live on www.redbull.tv and on television networks around the world.