A different rider headed each of the three Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup practice sessions at Mugello but in the third, the qualifying session, it was last year’s winner Yuki Kunii who had the upper hand.
The 16-year-old Japanese sits on pole but alongside him are his arch rivals from Jerez, Carlos Tatay, the 16-year-old Spaniard with whom he shares the points lead and Barry Baltus, the 15-year-old Belgian who had a go at besting both of them in that first weekend.
Kunii was wearing that typical huge grin as he walked from his KTM RC 250 R at the end of the day. “Yes I am happy with that. I was a bit concerned in FP2,” he said, referring to only being seventh quickest in that session. “I didn’t feel I was getting the grip from the rear but we softened the rear suspension for Qualifying and with the new tyre the grip was there.”
“So I am very comfortable on the bike now and ready to race. I know it will be very hard, just as it was here last year and in Jerez,” concluded Kunii.
A replay from Jerez?
Tatay, who shared a win and a second with Kunii in Jerez, is equally comfortable as he looks forward to the single race on Saturday. “I tried a lot of different things through practice, using the slipstream, riding on my own, working on a lot of situations so that I am well prepared for the race. The bike is great and I know it will be a hard race but I am very much looking forward to it.”
Completing the front row, Baltus knows he will have no easy ride either. “With my size I struggle on the straights here and I had to use the slipstream to get a good time so considering that I think third is not bad at all, especially after the big crash in Jerez.”
“Santi (lead suspension technician Santiago Morralla) did a crazy good job on the bike set-up, it is brilliant and I really enjoy riding it so I think we can have a great race,” enthused Baltus who was third in Race 1 and fell trying to do better in Race 2.
The same guys chasing
Heading row two is Jason Dupasquier, the 17-year-old Swiss who was 7th and 4th in Jerez. “I like the track but I didn’t have the bike set up well through Free Practice. It was when we lowered the front for Qualifying and put the new tyre in that I felt good with the bike. I got into the quick group early on and put in some good laps.”
“Then we lost the group but right at the end of the session I got in behind Kunii and used his slipstream to set my best time. So I know that I can stay with him and run that pace, it should be good for the race.”
Bettered at the end
Lorenzo Fellon felt that he should have been beside Dupasquier on the grid. “I was fifth until after I took the chequered flag, then Noguchi and Escrig went quicker. That’s OK, I started seventh in Jerez and I could battle for the podium,” asserted the 14-year-old Frenchman who almost stood on the podium but was penalised for exceeding track limits.
“So I think the race should be good, we have a little bit of work to do on the bike, we will talk about changing things slightly but basically it is good and I could follow Kunii OK.”
This weekend’s Rookies Cup race can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.
The race is at 16:30 CET on Saturday, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.