With pole position and two wins, 15-year-old Spaniard Raúl Fernández demonstrated perfect mastery of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup KTM in the most tricky conditions at the Dutch TT. He was chased home by Ayumu Sasaki and Rory Skinner as local hero Walid Soppe slid off while leading on the last lap.
While the crowd groaned, Fernández couldn't believe his good fortune. "I was going to be second," he explained. "When Walid got ahead I started chasing him but I was thinking of the points and when I realised that I was well ahead of Sasaki on the last lap I relaxed, no point in taking any chances."
"It was a perfect weekend for me, pole and two wins," enthused the Spaniard. "It was a hard with the weather and difficult track conditions but it worked out perfectly. Today I was into a good rhythm behind Ayumu from the start but after four or five laps the rear was sliding quite a bit through the fast corners as the tyres got warm. Through the slower sections it was fine and the bike was working well."
"There was no point in pushing too hard, I was happy to follow Sasaki and I knew it was a long race and the main thing was to make no mistakes. All the hard riding was in the last few laps, I was going to be second but the win is great, perfect for the championship. I dedicate this win to my mum, dad and brother," he concluded with his magic smile.
Having done all the hard work and caught the leading trio of Sasaki, Fernández and Skinner, 16-year-old Soppe jumped into a clear lead starting lap 12 of 14. His pace caught the other by surprise and though Fernández chased the win should have gone to the Dutchman. "From the start the front guys were quick and I just wanted to settle in and be smooth," he explained.
"Then I got into a rhythm, started to touch my knees down and could really feel what the bike was doing. In the end I caught them quite quick and went straight into the lead. The tyres had gone away a bit by then, I certainly didn't have to crash, but I did."
Second, first, fourth and second shows how consistent Sasaki's season has been so far but the 15-year-old Japanese wants to be winning. "In the first race I didn't want to take any risks and I finished fourth. For this race I wanted to be in front, there I was happy to make the pace and keep my rhythm."
"In the end we were caught and I couldn't keep the lead but second is OK for the championship, I still have the lead and a little gap over Fernández, we will see what happens in Sachsenring," he added with the inscrutable expression he reserves for interviews.
Third in first
Having missed the first two races of the season through injury, 14-year-old Skinner also missed out on Assen 1 when Kaito Toba fell in front of him. So making the podium in the first race he finished was an OK result. "Yes I'm happy about that. So glad to get some points and a great way to finish a weekend that started so badly with the cancelled flight that made us miss the first session."
"I got a good start and was happy to go with the other two. I made a couple of mistakes and was finding it hard to stay with them but then the others caught up and we all bunched up together again. I'd been missing out coming out of the chicane, a bit too cautious early on but I got better by the end of the race and the last few laps were great fun."
The Rookies Cup continues at the Sachsenring on July 16th and 17th with races 5 and 6 of the 13.