Danny Kent took a firm hold on the final race of the 2010 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup with a sensational performance in qualifying for Saturday's Misano race. The 16 year old Briton bathed in the sunshine of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend while arch rival and Cup leader Jake Gagne struggled with technical problems and qualified 10th.
Only Gagne and Kent can win the Cup and the 17 year old Californian holds an 11 point advantage going into the final 17 laps so needs to at least finish 3rd if he is to stop Kent snatching the Cup by winning the race. Just 3 tenths slower than Kent is 16 year old Australian Josh Hook who was in a front row spot towards the end of the session then got a tow from Kent in the final laps to grab 2nd position on the grid.
Unusually for a Rookies Cup race the 3rd fastest, Kevin Calia is almost 8 tenths slower with his time from the 1st Qualifying session and Daijiro Hiura is a full second slower and completes the front row.
Kent is looking forward to the race in the most determined fashion. "I can't be beaten for second in the Cup so I've just got to go out, put my head down and go for the win, nothing else will do and I've got to hope that a couple of other guys can also beat Jake." So is it a case of 'win or crash'? "Something like that," Kent answered with his trademark grin. "The bike's great and I am enjoying the track, I've never ridden here before, it's a bit bumpy, like British tracks so I'm feeling at home here."
Gagne may be down in 10th but he has already won 4 races this year and previously also made a nonsense of his qualifying position. "We had a bit of trouble in practice, in the first session the engine just got slower and slower then stopped. So for the second they put me out on a spare bike but that felt completely different to mine, so we've struggled a bit to get it to work for me. I like the track though, it's got a good mixture of slow and fast corners so I'm sure the race will be fine, I've just got to get a good start, get with the front guys and check out where Danny is I guess."
Hook is obviously one of those likely to get in middle of the battle that decides the Cup and was thrilled with his superb qualifying. "The first timed session wasn't good at all, I was pushing too hard, making mistakes and down in 12th place. I was cool for the second session, just did my own thing and was 4th fastest. I would have been happy to be on the front row so stopped at the pits, thought about it a bit and went out again. Danny was just ahead so that was a good mark for me to aim at and I got the time right there at the end of the session."
Calia was happy with 3rd even if not with the 2nd qualifying session. "I don't know why but I just could make a good lap time like I did in the 1st session but the bike is great, I enjoy the track. I have not been here that much it's just my 4th race here and I think it will be a very hard and close race, just like the Sachsenring and a lot of our other races."
There are plenty of other riders with thoughts of getting on the podium and even winning the race and Hiura is one of them. "I came here determined to win so even though I am 4th on the grid I am not happy because I am 1 second slower than Danny. The bike is fine, it is down to me to improve, I don't know where I can find a second, that is what I have got to think about."
Cappella heads the second row and even though he might be considered to have a home track advantage in fact he has never raced or even tested at the track before. He was a little frustrated not to have been quicker as he finished the session in the pits. "I pulled in to change the rear suspension because it was moving around a lot on the gas. Then I found there was only a minute to go so it was too late. I don't know if I will change it for the race, I will have to think about it but I am having fun here, it's a great track."
Saturday's final race of the Cup season can be seen live either on TV stations or on www.redbull.com/tv starting at 16.30 CET.
Official Qualifying Classification
1. Danny Kent (GBR) 1 minute 47.532 seconds (187.2 kph)
2. Joshua Hook (AUS) +0.305
3. Kevin Calia (ITA) +0.772
4. Daijiro Hiura (JPN) +1.073
5. Alessio Cappella (ITA) +1.338
6. Xavier Figueras (ESP) +1.404
7. Alejandro Pardo (ITA) +1.428
8. Brad Binder (RSA) +1.437
9. Xavier Pinsach (ESP) +1.583
10. Jake Gagne (USA) +1.763