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Bo Bendsneyder got the best of a wheel-to-wheel battle with Fabio Di Giannantonio to win Race 1 at Assen by 8 hundredths of a second.
The 16-year-old Dutchman went into the race as firm favourite having won both races in Jerez and set off from Pole in determined style but his 16-year-old Italian rival raced him all the way.
Third placed Oscar Gutierrez was nearly 12 seconds adrift but that was because the leading pack was split up on lap 4 when Olly Simpson highsided dramatically, accelerating onto the back straight. As the unfortunate 17-year-old Australian dislocated his shoulder, Dutch 16-year-old Robert Schotman hit his machine and also fell, uninjured.
No easy ride
Having qualified almost half a second quicker than anyone else Bendsneyder was confident enough going into the race but knew that Di Giannantonio and Gutierrez could well be a threat. “I really pushed from the start,” explained Bendsneyder. “I didn't want it to be a race to the finish and I tried to make a gap but Fabio rode a great race and I only made one mistake but that put him on my tail again. Then it was just a last lap where I gave it everything and luckily I won.”
“The bike was great, I am not going to change anything for tomorrow but I hope the race isn't the same, I'd like to get a bit further ahead,” the Cup leader grinned after his third straight win.
While Bendsneyder knew nothing of the Simpson drama behind, Di Giannantonio did. “Yes I saw it on the big screen so I knew why we were on our own out front. It was a great race, I just pushed as hard as I could and in the last laps we were overtaking everywhere, it was side by side down to the last corner. OK, Bo won but it was so close and I will try and turn that around tomorrow.”
Bendsneyder intends to change nothing on his KTM RC 250 R but Di Giannantonio probably will. “Yes I will talk about it with the engineers, we changed the bike after qualifying and it was better for the race but I think we can still improve the front a little more and that will really help.”
“Olly crashed right beside me,” explained Gutierrez. “I had to go off the track and then the rear tyre was a bit dirty so I lost more time and catching up wasn't possible. I had a good battle with Enzo for a few laps but managed to get away and then had a lonely race. I think tomorrow will be very different and I can race for the win,” asserted the 15-year-old Spaniard.
Enzo Boulom had been part of that lead battle until the split and early on looked impressive as he cut through from 5th to 3rd. But in the second half of the race he could not match Gutierrez. “I felt good from the start and the bike was great but then it was just like Jerez and I lost grip at the rear under acceleration, I changed style and pushed for more speed through the corner but the front would not put up with that. I am going to talk to the engineers and see what we can come up with because I want to race all the way.”
Though Simpson is a doubtful starter for Race 2 on Saturday it is set to be another thriller.
Saturday's Rookies Cup race 2 is at 15.30 CET and can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.
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