Wet qualifying at Mugello for Saturday's single race in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup at the Italian GP left a lot of riders dirty and dejected after a number of falls but Jorge Martín made no mistake on his way to pole position. The 16-year-old Spaniard, lies joint second in the points table and overcame Brad Ray, the 17-year-old Briton, who had headed the table early on then slid off, unhurt, late in the session.
The front row is completed by 16-year-old Australian Olly Simpson. Martín and Ray were clearly the quickest men in the slippery conditions and as the Spaniard had also headed the dry first non qualifying session he was particularly pleased with his day's work. “It is my first time here and from the first laps I really enjoyed it.”
Settings still a question for Martín
“It is absolutely my sort of track,” continued Martín. “I love the fast flowing corners. It wasn't easy to make pole though. Brad was fast and I had to push hard, I had some slides, almost crashed but it's OK. I was happy to be fast also in the dry. In that session I did not change much on the bike as I was concentrating on learning the track. With the second free practice and qualifying being wet we didn't get to try the changes I wanted making to the bike so that is a bit of a question if we have a dry race but it shouldn't be too bad. I hope it is dry for tomorrow though.”
Despite his fall, Ray was far happier than at the end of the Jerez weekend where he had been frustrated at not getting the bike to work the way he wanted. A solid discussion with the suspension engineers early after his arrival in Italy paid dividends. “The bike is certainly working a lot better now, I can brake into the corners as I couldn't before, the forks rebound a bit much but that is less of a problem and we are much closer.”
Ray over the top
“I was enjoying the qualifying,” continued Ray who stands 9th in the points. “I just had a big highside towards the end. I was closing on someone, I think it was Toprak (Razgatlioglu) and I just pushed too hard, lost the back going into the corner off the throttle and it pitched me over the top. I'm OK though, it was a shame I didn't finish the session and I hope it rains for the race.”
It might seem strange that as an Australian Olly Simpson is going so well in the wet. “I think it's my dirt track background, I've never had a problem in the wet, it doesn't matter to me, wet or dry.” As the Rookies Cup has not been to Mugello for the past two years few Rookies have any experience at the GP venue. “I liked it right from the start, I won't say it's my favourite, that's still Phillip Island, but this is really great, I like the sweeping corners, the undulations, fantastic.”
Razgatlioglu, Mir and Mihara in the hunt
Heading the second row is 17-year-old Turk, Razgatlioglu. “That wasn't too bad and I don't mind the rain. The track is great so I am expecting a good race.” Points leader and Jerez Race 2 winner Joan Mir, the 16-year-old Spaniard, is in the middle of the second row but a bit disappointed after falling, unhurt.
Completing row 2, Jerez Race 1 winner, Soushi Mihara, was quite happy. “I was aiming for the front row if I could make it but the second row is OK. My weak point is the opening laps so I really have to go for it from the start and through corners 1, 2 and 3. I have to stay with the front group and race from there,“ asserted the 14-year-old Japanese.
This weekend's Rookies Cup race can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world at 16.30 CET tomorrow, Saturday. The show starts 10 minutes before the race.