The 2014 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup kicks off this coming weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez with two chances for the 24 rapid teenagers to show their capabilities. Favourite will doubtless be last year's Jerez Race 1 winner Jorge Martín (Photograph) as the 16-year-old Spaniard also dominated this year's preseason test at Motorland Aragon.
The Rookies Cup is notoriously unpredictable though. While the young man from San Sebastian de los Reyes, near Madrid, who finished second in last year's Cup to current Moto3 factory rider Karel Hanika, is looking good, there are a chasing host who are bound to give him a hard time all the way through his third Cup season.
Mir chasing Martín
Most obviously fellow countryman Joan Mir is very strong going into his second season in the Cup as the 16-year-old from Palma de Mallorca was second fastest in testing even though that was a pleasant surprise to him. "I did not expect to be so far forward in the times, a second position is a magnificent result."
Mir did not star at the early rounds last year as it took him time to get used to the machinery and high level of the competition. He was 17th and 12th in the two Jerez races but he made great progress through the season. His best result was second in Race 2 at Silverstone and by then he often featured in the fight for the rostrum places and moved up to finish ninth in the Cup standings.
The Italian challenge
The two Spaniards will have the home country advantage of course but with it goes added pressure and that might play into the hands of Italian 17-year-old Manuel Pagliani who set out his intentions for his second Cup season with third in the preseason test. The young man from Camposampero, near Padua, was a front runner all last year, fourth in the first race of the season and second in Race 2, he finally won at Misano and ended the year sixth in the table.
The fellow Italian that he beat at Misano, 15-year-old Stefano Manzi, is still looking for his first win but racked up four seconds and three thirds on his way to third in the standings. He has started his third Cup year with the fourth fastest time in the preseason test and is bound to be a serious Cup challenger.
Not just a mediterranean battle
With 16-year-old Briton Brad Ray and Australian 16-year-old Olly Simpson fifth and sixth quickest in Aragon it is clear that class extends well down the entry list and anyway the battle for the lead traditionally is more likely to be ten riders than six. Martín maybe favourite but he is not overconfident. "Jerez is not really my favourite track but of course I won my first Rookies Cup there so I like it for that," he explained. "I think we can still get more out of the bike than we did at the Aragon test."
Practice and qualifying will give a little better idea who those ten or so front runners might be and track action starts at 11.55 on Friday May 2nd with the first 30 minute Free Practice session. There is another at 16.05 and that that is followed at 17.50 with the single, 25 minute, Qualifying session to determine the grid positions for both races.
The opening round of the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Race 1 takes place on Saturday, May 3rd at 16.30 CET and Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.