Filip Salač and Ai Ogura battled for the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup pole position of the season. Salač, the 15-year-old Czech, headed both free practice leaderboards in Jerez and took the early advantage in Qualifying. Then 16-year-old Japanese Ogura got the better of him with a superb performance on the KTM RC 250 R and on the final lap Salač slid off making one more attempt.
Newcomer Kazuki Masaki, another 16-year-old Japanese, is the surprise in third place just ahead of Cup favourite Aleix Viu with the Spanish 16-year-old being a touch frustrated. The first qualifying of the 11th Cup season sees just a second covering the top 9.
"Yes finally that was OK," admitted Ogura with his usual reticence. "Last year I was also fast in Qualifying but not so good in the race," he explained referring to his 7th place in Qualifying followed by a fall and 10th. "I believe I can go faster still but I need to find something in myself and on the bike. I'm not sure if we should change the settings for tomorrow, we need to think about it."
Salač was also not over the moon. "I knew I needed to find something and really pushed on that last lap. The front just folded under on me but I'm OK. We will think about if we need to change the settings a little for the race but the bike is pretty good. I was happy with everything today until that last lap."
Waking up this morning for his first day of Rookies Cup practice and qualifying, Masaki admits he didn't expect to be on the front row. "No but I'm very happy. I really love the track, it was a lot of fun right from the start. The bike is also working well but I am just a bit upset by the front, it could be better so we might try something a little different for the race."
Also hoping for an improvement for the race is Viu who won the first race last year from third on the grid and was second in Race 2. "I struggled today with some bike problems just as I did at the test so we really need to sort it out for the race. It's something in the throttle response. Apart from that the bike is great and I got into a good rhythm by the end of qualifying. I hope it's going to be a great race."
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.