Catalunya: a challenge for the rookies

It was somewhat of a race of attrition in Barcelona, and a tough race day for the rookies

14 riders finished the Catalan GP, with a host of crashes on Sunday meaning that if you finished, you scored. Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the only rookie who took points in the end, taking P14 and two of them after a tough weekend – suffering a number of high-speed crashes, one of which sent him to hospital for precautionary extra checks. The Italian was technically 3 laps down after a fall in the race, but he remounted and it was enough to move him clear of Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in the battle for rookie of the year. He now has 19 points and Syahrin 17.

“It was a tricky weekend for us, I crashed many times but in the race I was feeling quite good with decent pace,” says the Italian, having made big progress for Sunday. “Then I had a problem and had to slow a lot, the tyre got colder and I crashed at Turn 2. But luckily I could go again on the bike.” He could, heading for the pits and then back out, knowing it was worth it: “I got two points and I’m really happy about that.”

Syahrin was also a crasher at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Malaysian had had a solid weekend until the race, when he highsided out and wasn’t able to rejoin. After an impressive campaign so far, it was rare blip on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider’s CV – and one he’ll be looking to put right. The first rookie to get into the top ten this year, in Assen he’ll be a man on a mission – and taking the positives.

“I had a warning at the first corner, then before I crashed at Turn 4 I was pushing because I’d made a mistake at the first corner,” explains the Malaysian. “I was a bit wide and I opened it a bit but it slid, and highsided. I’m disappointed because I was really strong this weekend and I’m sorry to my team, but maybe it’s part of my learning. I’ll take the positives and come back stronger.”

Mistakes can be a vital part of learning, including for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), who may be the most disappointed of the debutants. After making it through to Q2 for the first time with an impressive performance on Saturday, the Japanese rider didn’t make it to the end of the race, sliding out at Turn 5 and collecting Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). It wasn’t, however, all in vain – with a lot to be learned from the experience, and another chance to get back out on track for all rookies on Monday in the test.

Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) also had a number of crashes and didn’t finish, the same as Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing), although the Belgian rider said overall it was a much more positive weekend than Mugello. Both of them are still looking for their first points of the season - will that change in Assen? Tune in from the 29th June to 1st July.