Assen assignment – the mid summer Rookies Cup exam
Assen is the height of summer and so often the height of drama. In fact the drama is more reliable than the weather as last year’s Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup races in the Netherlands were wet, yet both provided huge excitement.
This year will be no different and after Jerez where six different riders filled the six podium spots for the two races, it is clear that the Cup season is going to be wonderfully unpredictable.
So with Rory Skinner, Ai Ogura and Kazuki Masaki taking the top places in Race 1 and Aleix Viu, Filip Salač and Can Öncü doing the job on Sunday there were also five different nationalities represented.
The huge Dutch TT crowd are always looking for their own heroes to cheer for and this time they have three. 17-year-old Walid Soppe is ready to claim the win that evaded him last year when he slid off while leading on the final lap. He is in his third Cup year while 16-year-old Victor Steeman is in his second season and 15-year-old Loran Faber has his first outing on the fabulous KTM RC 250 R.
With no Grand Prix in Belgium those fans are likely to make the trip to Assen and cheer for their 15-year-old first year Rookie, Sasha De Vits.
It is 16-year-old Viu that leads the points chase though after a fifth and a first in his home GP. In his third Cup season he has all the experience to carry on but that didn’t work last year. He came to Assen on top of the points table only to fall early in the wet Race 1, that knocked his confidence and he was only 10th in Race 2.
That arguably lost him the Cup last year and he will be well aware how insecure is his grip on the points lead. This year though his opposition have already been unlucky, with his nearest points rivals, Japanese 16-year-old Ogura and Czech 15-year-old Salač, both putting themselves out of action with injuries.
Ogura crashed during Race 1 of the Moto3 Junior World Championship last weekend in Montmelo and fractured his right elbow, he will miss Assen and the Sachsenring as will Salač who broke his left femur in practice.
With Ogura and Salač out it could well be Skinner, the 15-year-old Scot who takes the battle to Viu. He was brought down chasing a podium in Assen 1 last year but rebounded to grab third in Race 2. So he is a natural favourite in his third season.
Those are the obvious Rookies to look out for including 16-year-old Japanese Masaki and 13-year-old Turk Öncü who completed those first weekend rostrums. It would be nothing shocking though if the two Dutch podiums featured six other Rookies, that is in the lap of the gods, as is the weather.
Both Beatriz Neila and Peetu Paavilainen are due to be back in action after their injuries so it should be a grid of 23 KTMs lining up on Saturday.
This weekend’s Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.
Race 1 is at 16.30 CET on Saturday and Race 2 is on Sunday at 16.00, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.