Rory Skinner and Ai Ogura were set for an intense final lap in the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the season only to have the race stopped with a Red Flag. Though Ogura was leading at the time, the results were taken at the end of lap 14 when Skinner was in front. Hence the 15-year-old Scot stood on top of the podium ahead of two 16-year-old Japanese with Kazuki Masaki having taken third.
The missing final lap could have gone either way and pole man Ogura was naturally disappointed. "Yes, that was bad luck. I had been following Rory and knew what I wanted to do. I knew I could pass him and I did, ready to try and build a bit of a gap so he couldn't try anything at the last corner."
Skinner had only qualified ninth and wasn't helped by a first corner crash that split the field but he was quickly up to speed and reeled off a series of fastest laps as he closed down on fast starting Ogura and Masaki. He didn't waste time in getting to the front and soon pulled clear.
"I had a good rhythm going and had in the back of my mind the thought that I would save the tyres a bit if I could but I didn't really build a big enough advantage and the gap varied a bit, I made a couple of mistakes and I then knew that Ai was catching."
"I wasn't worried because I knew I could go with him after he came past and do something on the last lap. In Rookies Cup you can't really make a plan but if it had come down to the classic Jerez last corner that would have been OK."
"The bike was good, not perfect but it would be too much of a risk to change things and I think that I can bring something to it myself tomorrow," concluded Skinner who scored his first Rookies Cup victory to start his third season.
Ogura and Masaki also plan to up their game for Sunday's race. "It didn't happen today but I have another chance tomorrow," explained Ogura whose previous best result was 3rd last year in Assen. "The bike wasn't perfect, I was struggling a bit with the front moving around but I don't think I will change anything for tomorrow. We might make it worse if we change it. If we keep it the same I know what to expect and I think I can manage it."
"I learnt a lot today," enthused Masaki who was actually brought down by Walid Soppe in the crash that necessitated the Red Flag. He restarted and was third thanks to the count back. "I can be quicker tomorrow, I really enjoyed the race and though the bike was sliding around a bit at the back it was a lot of fun. We might change the setting to try and improve it but I'm not sure."
It was Masaki's first Rookies Cup race and he admitted that his great start wasn't typical. "Not really," he laughed. "I will try again tomorrow."
First last year
Aleix Viu won Race 1 in 2016 but this time was 5th behind 15-year-old Czech Filip Salač. "My gearing was too tall," explained the 16-year-old Spaniard with a shake of the head. "We will change that for tomorrow and I'm going for victory."
While Walid Soppe has been taken to hospital for precautionary check the other riders are set to start Race 2 with Deniz Öncü ready to pass a medical on Sunday morning.
Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30 CET, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.