After two thrilling races at Portimão it is a short run of just 360km for the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup crew to Jerez for the 3rd and 4th races of the season.
José Rueda arrives in his home country as points leader but the 16-year-old already knows that he has a fight on his hands after being denied the Race 2 win in Portugal. Collin Veijer took victory after Rueda exceeded track limits through the final turn. Along with his 3rd from Race 1 the 17-year-old Dutchman has the confidence to do battle for the win again this weekend.
Veijer is in his 3rd Rookies season, Rueda his first and it was another newcomer, Casey O’Gorman, who shared the podium with them on both days in Portimão. Those were dry races and the 14-year-old Irishman had shown himself by far the fastest in the wet on Friday.
Many more with a chance
The forecast is for sun this time and it was not only those three that ran at the front in the opening round. Harrison Voight had the lead at times and the visible frustration that the 15-year-old Australian felt at being 4th twice will spur him on in his second Rookies Cup visit to Jerez.
It was only Angel Piqueras who really took on Rueda late in Race 1 and the 15-year-old Spaniard ended the day nursing 2 broken toes in his right foot after he highsided while looking for a way past his fellow countryman. The bandaged swelling kept him out of Race 2 but he is determined to ride in Jerez if he gets official medical clearance.
Rico Salmela, Tatchakorn Buasri and Gabin Planques were part of that superb 7 man lead battle that went all the way to the line in Race 2 and will be planning on a podium finish in Jerez at least. So too will Max Quiles, the 14-year-old Spaniard who qualified second to pole man Piqueras but had trouble getting his KTM RC 250 R off the line. He will sort that out this time and be challenger.
While the Rookies were racing last Sunday ex Rookie Joe Roberts was celebrating his first Grand Prix win. The 24-year-old Californian had taken victory in the Moto2 race, making him the 24th ex Rookie to score a World Championship race victory and pushing our win total to 142. Ex Rookies Jaume Masia and Ayumu Sasaki took 2nd and 3rd in Moto3 ahead of another 4 and Johann Zarco was 2nd in MotoGP where 5 of the top 8 in the title chase are ex Rookies.
Roberts has not been an instant GP success, having been a Rookie in 2011, 12 and 13. “This win has been a while coming, that’s for sure. There’s a lot of work behind this but I count myself lucky over the years that I’ve had great support. Even when at times it has looked like it was just me and my dad there have been those who have supported me and kept the belief.”
“I have always wanted to be a GP racer, that’s what we all want to be, right. To win my first race, I just burst with emotion coming out of the last corner. I couldn’t contain it. I know there were special circumstances and all that but it’s there, the first win.”
“I look at the Rookies now and see that soon those guys are going to be racing in GPs. I remember when I was a Rookie, that step to Moto3 seemed big and then Moto2 or MotoGP was another world but you can do it. I never wanted to be complacent and settle for anything less, we’ve sacrificed a lot to get here, but it’s worth it.”
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 17:15 CEST on Saturday and Race 2 is on Sunday at 16:30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.
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