Kazuki Masaki took his first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup victory with a brilliant last lap, holding off Can Öncü and Saturday’s winner Ai Ogura. 16-year-old Japanese Masaki closed the points gap on Cup leader Öncü to just five as the pair pull away from Spanish 16-year-old Aleix Viu who crossed the line 11th and is now 28 points off the lead.
Viu was unlucky as he had been on Saturday when he finished 10th after being involved in a first lap clash with Can Öncü. The pair came together again in Race 2 on lap 8 of 17 as they braked for the first corner and Viu did a superb job of staying on the KTM RC 250 R as he ran off the track, then fought back through the field and into the points.
A nine man battle
It was an intense battle at the front all the way to the final corner with nine Rookies looking for podium glory at the Red Bull Ring. Ogura had started from the very back of the grid, a penalty because in Race 1 he rejoined the circuit in an unsafe manner after being involved in the first lap Öncü/Viu incident, an action that triggered a multi bike accident, fortunately without serious injury.
The worst injury in fact was carried by Ogura himself, a broken bone in his right foot. That didn’t stop the 16-year-old Japanese winning Race 1 or charging through the pack in Race 2 to take the lead on lap 10.
No double for Ogura
This time he couldn’t pull away though. “I didn’t have the same pace, the track conditions had changed, it was hotter and I couldn’t get away. I tried to, but they just passed me again and though I kept fighting I couldn’t get in front again at the end.”
Masaki had chased Ogura home on Saturday but this time he had the upper hand. “We changed the rear suspension, made it a bit softer and the bike was great, just what I needed. It was a very tough race but a lot of fun and my plan was to lead the group on the last lap. I managed to do just that so I am very happy, very happy also to be much closer in the points after this weekend and I want to win again in Misano.”
Italy another story
Of course Can Öncü has other ideas. “It will be mine in Misano, I must win again,” asserted the 14-year-old Turk. “I tried to win this on the last lap but then Yamanaka came past and went out, Ogura came past and went out so I hardly had the chance to take Masaki at the last corner, I might have tried but I was thinking also about the points.”
Ryusei Yamanaka was distraught after the race, he had been at the sharp end all through Race 2 after a great 3rd in Race 1. He made a big play at the final, fast right hander, but got in way too hot and shot away into the run-off. He regained the circuit to take a fine fourth but it wasn’t enough. “I wanted to win, I made a mistake,” he choked. “I must win in Misano.”
Settings and misfortune
Deniz Öncü, already a double Rookies Cup winner, also had his chance in front but the 14-year-old Turk finished a close 5th after also making a big play at the last corner. “I tried but it didn’t work, I should do better,” he admitted. “We changed the bike after yesterday and the front was better, not perfect and I knew that after the sighting lap but I didn’t want to change again as we did yesterday because that made it worse. I enjoyed the race today, enjoyed the battle at the front but I can do better in Misano.”
Viu could not be happy with the weekend though his riding could not be faulted. He picked up just 11 points out of a possible 50 for the weekend. “The pace wasn’t that fast today. I knew I could run at the front and went to take the lead, I was just braking in the normal place but the group was braking early and then Can moved across and we touched, I only just stayed on, it is not a good situation for the Cup but there are still three races.”