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Portuguese Grand Prix hosts intense Rookie contest

Portuguese Grand Prix hosts intense Rookie contest

The Red Bull Rookies barely have time to breath before the second weekend of the Cup gets underway as part of the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril this weekend. Two incredible races at Jerez result in reigning champion Lorenzo Baldassarri heading the points table going into Race 3 on Saturday.

Despite that fact the 15-year-old Italian is having anything but an easy time trying to retain his title. He struggled through pre season testing in Estoril and was only 11th fastest, he also qualified 11th in Jerez and was down in mid pack for most of Race 1. He scraped 8 points for an 8th place finish in that 1st race but crowned his weekend with a brilliant victory in the 2nd to take the points lead.

Running closer to the front consistently since the start of the year and brimming with home track confidence is Portuguese 15 year old Ivo Lopes. At the Estoril test he was 6th fastest and was placed 6th on the grid in Jerez. He was ahead of Baldassarri, 5th across the line in Race 1 and only 5 thousandths of a second separated them when the Italian got the verdict in Race 2.

Lopes is 3rd in the points as he starts at home and between him and leader Baldassarri is the 14 year old newcomer to the Rookies Cup; Diego Perez. The Spaniard was a superb double 3rd at his home Grand Prix and also carries a great deal of confidence going to Portugal. He was 7th fastest in the test, siting interestingly between Lopes and Baldassarri.

There are plenty of others who featured strongly in Jerez who will be looking to keep this trio off the podium in Estoril. Strongest on paper is Florian Alt. The German turned 16 on Monday. His missed last year's Portuguese event through injury but he was 2nd fastest in the test and won Race 1 in Jerez. He was denied a possible double by an electrical fault in Race 2.

Others who were candidates for victory in Jerez include Marcos Ramirez, the 14-year-old Spanish Rookie newcomer who was 2nd in Race 1 and 6th in Race 2 after qualifying on pole. He was 12th in the Estoril test. Fastest at that pre season event was Kyle Ryde, the reigning British 125 cc Champion. The British 14 year old qualified 3rd in Jerez and was right at the front in both races, taking a 4th in race 1 before being knocked off in Race 2.

Other stars of Jerez were Bradley Ray who led much of practice, qualified 2nd and crashed out of the lead in Race 1. He was pushed out of the lead group in Race 2 by the same incident that claimed Ryde but fought back to finish a very close 5th. The 14-year-old Briton was 9th fastest at the Estoril test. Not to be forgotten is one of last year's stars; Philipp Oettl, the German turns 16 on Thursday and as he only lost 3rd by a fraction in Race 2 seems to have overcome the 4-stroke to 2-stroke switch that saw him struggle to qualify 14th.

Race 1 on Saturday starts at 17.30 CET and on Sunday, Race 2 gets under way at 17.00. Both races can be seen live on redbull and on TV stations around the world.


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