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The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup began the build up to its 3rd season with two beautiful sunny days testing at Estoril in Portugal. 27 talented teenagers took to the track on their KTM RC125s and were obviously enjoying themselves after 5 months of waiting.
Fastest overall was Japanese 14 year old Daijiro Hiura just ahead of Norwegian 17 year old Sturla Fagerhaug and 16 year old Frenchman Nelson Major.
While two of the Rookies, Fagerhaug and 15 year old Scot Deane Brown, are going into their 3rd Cup season and obviously are well at home on the machines others were having their first chance to try the KTMs.
At the other end of the experience scale is 13 year old Australian Arthur Sissis who has had almost no road racing experience at all but was 13th fastest. "It's just another motorcycle," said Sissis simply and with a long string of Speedway and Dirt Track titles to his name his easy confidence is not too hard to understand.
Quickly into the groove was Fagerhaug who said it was just great to be back on the bike after a very snowy winter at home. "It's good to know that I haven't forgotten how to ride. We've just been working on the bike and though we started with the base setting we are now not far from what we used in the race here last year. For the first time we are allowed to change the ride heights a bit and we are running the bike higher at the back so that is helping to turn in and it really pays off at the chicane."
Rider Coach Gustl Auinger was thrilled with the way that the preparation started, "We have got a fantastic group of kids this year, very talented. They've done a great job of settling on the bikes after the off season break. We've got a tremendous mix of riders from all over the world and all different backgrounds and though some are here for their 3rd year and some are new they have quickly jelled together. It is going to be a very tough season for all of them but we've made a great start."
Of course there will always be accidents and 16 year old Scot Taylor Mackenzie came to the first test nursing a broken left collarbone having crashed testing his British Championship 125 in Cartagena Spain on March 8th. An operation back in Britain enabled him to ride in Estoril though obviously at less than 100% fitness. "I am really enjoying it, the bike is mega, it wheelies more than my bike back home. I'm braking one-handed though, keeping the load off my left shoulder and I don't want to do anything silly."
Unluckiest on the first day in Portugal was Italian 14 year old Kevin Calia, he broke his left forearm without even crashing. Loosing control in the middle of the chicane, the bike snapped back at him and did the damage. He slowed to a halt in great pain. Later he returned from the local hospital in plaster and with the news that he will probably be OK to ride in the first race in 5 weeks time. "It should be no problem," he said with a grin and a shrug. "Two or three weeks and I hope to start training again."
Unlucky man number two was Benny Solis, the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup holder who slid off on the morning of the second day and broke the little finger of his left hand, the wound needed cleaning out with a small surgery but he will try and ride at the second test in Jerez after a 2 day break. In fact there was a bit of frustration for all three Americans and it was summed up by Jake Gagne, the 15 year old Californian who was 18th and 2 places behind Solis. "I wasn't as fast as I hoped to be. I spent the first day getting used to the track and I guess I just haven't been on a 125 road racer all winter and it is taking me a bit to get into it again. Still we've got two days at Jerez now and hopefully I'll be going better after that."
There were many others who thought they might have done better including Mathew Scholtz, the 16 year old South African, 7th quickest. "I'd say that the first day was better than the second. Things started out OK but today we tried to work on the bike and get a better setting but nothing that we tried really worked so I couldn't go forward. We are just going to have to try again in the two days at Jerez and hope to find a good setting."
Even the quickest of them all, Hiura, was not completely satisfied, "I'm happy with the lap time, this is one of my favourite tracks. The only problem is, there is no race here!!"
1. Daijiro Hiura (JPN) 1 min 49,983 sec
2. Sturla Fagerhaug (NOR) 1 min 50,363 sec
3. Nelson Major (FRA) 1 min 50,536 sec
4. Danny Kent (GBR) 1 min 50,781 sec
5. Daniel Ruiz (ESP) 1 min 51,117 sec
6. Florian Marino (FRA) 1 min 51,233 sec
7. Mathew Scholtz (RSA) 1 min 51,242 sec
8. Jakub Kornfeil (CZE) 1 min 51,560 sec
9. Alessio Cappella (ITA) 1 min 51,683 sec
10. Deane Brown (GBR) 1 min 51,725 sec
11. Harry Stafford (GBR) 1 min 51,879 sec
12. Joshua Hook (AUS) 1 min 52,090 sec
13. Arthur Sissis (AUS) 1 min 52,242 sec
14. Brad Binder (RSA) 1 min 52,315 sec
15. Dylan Mavin (AUS) 1 min 52,345 sec
16. Benny Solis (USA) 1 min 52,370 sec
17. Robin Barbosa (FRA) 1 min 52,484 sec
18. Jacob Gagne (USA) 1 min 52,635 sec
19. Kevin Calia (ITA) 1 min 52,687 sec
20. Juan Perello (ESP) 1 min 52,847 sec
21. Alejandro Pardo (ITA) 1 min 52,941 sec
22. Alexander Kristiansson (SWE) 1 min 53,155 sec
23. Hayden Gillim (USA) 1 min 53,287 sec
24. Xavier Figueras (ESP) 1 min 53,324 sec
25. Nico Thöni (AUT) 1 min 53,529 sec
26. Fraser Rogers (GBR) 1 min 53,582 sec
27. Taylor Mackenzie (GBR) 1 min 55,160 sec
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