Ayumu Sasaki took a perfectly judged, last second victory at Motorland Aragon but had already taken the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup for 2016 when is single rival, Aleix Viu, was brought down on the first lap.
It quickly became a three man battle for the lead with Rufino Florido and Raúl Fernández swapping places several times a lap, shadowed by Sasaki, the 15-year-old Japanese. All three knew very well that leading down the back straight on the last lap was not the preferred option and both Spaniards, 15-year-old Fernández and 16-year-old Florido, made several unsuccessful efforts to break away.
A cunning plan
Sasaki followed, not unusual, but what could he do on the final lap? Curiously, with a handful of laps remaining he ran down the extreme left of the back straight on the KTM, RC 250 R, leaving Florido and Fernández on the usual right hand path. They were unaware.
He tried it a couple of times, then, with a lap to go, he took the lead. He couldn’t break away but when it came to the final run down that back straight he pulled to the extreme left again, the others chased his slipstream.
At the last moment Sasaki went back across to the normal line, Fernández passed on the brakes but was hot into the last turn, Sasaki had the better drive out and stole victory on the line in a photo finish.
“I thought about it during the race,” explained Sasaki. “I knew I had to do something different and I practiced a few times. I knew they might still come past but I would have the better drive out of the last corner.”
There was no pretence from Florido and Fernández, they were not happy with second. “I can’t really say I’m happy,” said Fernandez, still managing his broad smile. “I really wanted to win the race and I did everything I could but I couldn’t match the speed of Sasaki and he passed me on the run to the line.”
“Still I must be happy with the weekend, a great ride yesterday and it was a fun race today, a great battle and I have third in the championship so I should be happy with that,” concluded Fernández.
“No I’m not happy,” stated Florido. “I knew I had good pace after yesterday. I was OK to be third down the back straight and thought I could pass Raul on the straight and Ayumu at the last corner but it didn’t work out and I didn’t have the top speed to do it.”
For Sasaki it was the end of a perfect season. Four wins, only twice off the podium and those were fourth places. “I must thank all the Rookies Cup staff for the fantastic support, it is a dream come true, it is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, to win the Rookies Cup and it is the best way to move into Moto3.”
Of course Viu was disappointed. The 15-year-old Spaniard had been clipped by Rory Skinner on the first lap and though he remounted and finished, in the style of the true sportsman he is even though half a lap behind, the Cup was gone. “Very disappointed, but that’s racing, it happens and there’s nothing to do.”
Skinner was almost as upset. “The gearbox hit neutral, I feel terrible, but it really wasn’t my fault,” explained the 14-year-old Scot who came back from the back to finish eighth.