Japanese 16-year-old Kazuki Masaki lies third in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup points table and made his intentions very clear with a brilliant pole position in his first visit to Brno. Only a tenth of a second slower is fellow countryman Ai Ogura, just back from injury and half a second quicker than points leader Can Öncü.
Öncü, the 14-year-old Turk, was an incredible 4 seconds faster than anyone in the wet Free Practice 1 and with the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend variable that could well be a key advantage.
Back for the big score
Having missed the last four races, 16-year-old Ogura needs to score big if he is to have any chance of challenging for the title and with 16-year-old Spaniard Aleix Viu, who lies second in the title chase, qualifying fourth Ogura knows it is going to be very tough.
Sitting with Ogura after the session, Masaki was very honest about his pole. "I followed this guy so I must say thank you to him. Still the bike is good and I think it will be a big group running at the front. I will just try to stay in a good position, third or fourth then really push at the end," concluded Masaki with his usual broad grin.
No pain, all gain
Ogura wasn't too upset with his fellow countryman. "That's OK I had a plan to push 100% but got into a group with other riders, then just tried to concentrate on what I was doing and what my bike is doing. I hope the lead group isn't too big in the race, two or three of us would be good for me."
He said that the right elbow he had broken was causing him no problems. "I have had zero pain from the crash to now, I already raced in Estoril and it was fine then and it isn't bothering me at all here." Unfortunately fellow returnee Filip Salač is still suffering with the leg he broke and the 15-year-old Czech was only 18th fastest. "It is hard, it hurts a lot and I don't have strength so it is not easy."
Third is not enough
Can Öncü was disappointed to be third fastest. "A shame, the bike was great in FP2 but when we put in the new tyre for qualifying that changed everything and I had problems with the rear. The suspension wasn't right but we know what to do for tomorrow, we can fix the problem and I will try to do what I did in Assen," asserted Öncü, winner of both races in the Netherlands.
Viu trails Öncü by 14 points and knows he has to finish ahead. "The bike is working well, I was working step by step through practice and fourth is not too bad. I was on a quick lap at the end of the session, just made a small mistake and lost my drive up the hill otherwise even pole might have been possible. Anyway the pace is there to run a good race. It is important to get away well at the start and be in the lead group."
This weekend's Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Race 1 is at 16.30 CET on Saturday and Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.