Meikon Kawakami shook things up with a brilliant lap to take his first pole in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. The 16-year-old Brazilian edged out Cup leader Can Öncü, the 14-year-old Turk with Indonesian 21-year-old Gerry Salim completing the front row in only his second event on the KTM RC 250 R.
"It's my first time even on the front row," said Kawakami with a broad grin. "I really enjoy the track, I learnt it quickly chasing the other guys in the first session. The bike feels really good and in the qualifying I could get good slipstreams from Kunii and Salim that helped me get the pole."
"I think that the race will be all about slipstream with a lot of us battling in a group. The bike is 100% right so I think I can have a good race."
A brave Turk
Can Öncü gave himself full marks for taking second even while injured. "In the Junior World Championship at Le Mans I crashed and gashed my knee. I had six stitches in it but when I was running the other day they burst and had to be restitched. It made things painful today but I was determined to do a good job for the championship."
"The bike wasn't perfect but we improved it through the day and thanks to everyone around for all their hard work it is now good and I think I can do a good job in the race tomorrow."
A clever Indonesian
Salim had no problem explaining the big step forward he has made since the first event in Jerez. "I wasn't happy with the bike at all there, I didn't feel comfortable but when I was training with Masaki (Kazuki Masaki, 2017 Rookies Cup champion) he explained me his bike settings. So we set up the bike like that and it feels really great."
"I loved the track right from the start, lots of fast corners, just what I like, I am really looking forward to the race."
And a Spaniard ready to race
Sharing a win and a second place with Can Öncü in Jerez, Carlos Tatay, the 15-year-old Spaniard is joint leader and was well to the front for most of today's three sessions but is only ninth on the grid.
"Yes I misjudged the end of the session, I didn't realise I was running out of time. I hadn't been able to pick up a slipstream and I finally came into the pits to make a suspension adjustment. I went out and the bike was better but it was too late to get a good time. I will use that setting for the race, it will be better," he asserted.
This weekend's Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Mugello's single race is at 16:30 CET on Saturday, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.