Karel Hanika charged to another pole position in Aragon but the newly crowned champion of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup is not betting on easy victories in the final races of the season on Saturday and Sunday.
The 17-year-old Czech was one of seven to slide off uninjured in the high pressure final qualifying of the year.
After setting his quick time on lap 4, before falling, Hanika did not improve and came under great pressure from arch rival Jorge Martín as the 15-year-old Spaniard got to within 0.156 seconds of pole time. Completing the front row of the grid is fellow 15-year-old Spaniard and CEV championship leader Marcos Ramirez with 16-year-old Briton Brad Ray heading up row two.
“It may be another pole but I am far from happy about it,” said Hanika quietly. “I shouldn't have crashed and I should have been able to go faster, I had various quick sector times but just did not put it all together. I have to say I really don't know why I fell, it was through the very fast left, turn four. The handlebars just closed as the front went away. I can't complain about the bike, it was working well, I don't think we will change anything for the race.”
Hanika has already expressed his intent to leave his Rookies Cup career in style as he heads to the Moto3 class in 2014 as a factory rider in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Motorsport team. He will have to work hard though because Martín is just as determined. “It is my home track, I really enjoy it here. It was a very tough day today though and qualifying was hard. It was hot and the bike was moving around a lot, on the limit through the fast lefts. The bike is working great though and I am sure it will be a close race.”
Martín is out to defend his second place in the Cup and of the five who could depose him Ramirez was fastest. “I'm happy being on the front row,” said Ramirez. “We had a few problems with the front suspension early on but the engineers did a good job and it was much better for the qualifying. I could push hard, right until the rear wheel is coming off the ground on the brakes. As I get off the brakes into the fast corners like the final left hander the front starts to patter but as I get on the gas it goes away. We might make a small change for the race to try and help that.”
Ray is not all concerned to be coming off the second row with a time 0.585 seconds shy of Hanika's. “We can race with him,” he said with that cheerful, deadpan expression that you just have to believe. “We made the changes through Free Practice 1 and 2 and got rid of some front chatter so I was really enjoying riding the bike in Qualifying. Early on I couldn't find some clear track but later I was on my own and just lapping the way I wanted. I don't think it will be a problem to go a bit quicker in the race.”
After an unlucky season Ray cannot challenge for the top three in the points table but he can end the year as he began by matching his Austin Race 1 victory. It is Manuel Pagliani, 9th in qualifying, Stefano Manzi, 10th and Enea Bastianini, 12th who have the points to challenge Martín and Ramirez for 2nd and 3rd in the Cup but they are obviously going to have to raise their game in the two races.