Raúl Fernández took pole position for the Dutch TT editions of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup after an intense 25 minutes of qualifying. The 15-year-old Spaniard held the slightest advantage into the last ten minutes in front of Walid Soppe, Ayumu Sasaki and Makar Yurchenko as the frantic KTM action stabilised.
He was just 5 hundredths quicker than local hero Soppe but with five minutes to go he dug deep and found almost another three tenths. Soppe, the 16-year-old Netherlander was watching from the pit lane resting his injured hand. "I hurt it in Barcelona the other weekend and I didn't have any power," explained Soppe. "I didn't want to take any chances. For the race though, I'll forget all about it."
Close but not enough
Soppe retained second as no-one else went quicker, leaving Sasaki, the 15-year-old Japanese, to complete the front row ahead of Russian 17-year old Yurchenko. They had all had a sprinkling of red helmets on the timing monitors in the closing minutes but it was only Fernández who put it all together.
"I got settled, I was feeling good on the bike and simply concentrated on getting the full lap right," explained Fernández. "It's my first time on pole and it didn't come easy as I had to use a spare bike for the first free practice when I had a problem. The second session was OK and we started to get a good set up. In qualifying it was pretty much perfect."
"I am really enjoying the fast corners here, the slow ones I could do better, I'm not getting the power on that well. I feel very comfortable on the bike now and that speed wasn't too hard, just concentrating," Fernández concluded with the usual twinkle in his eye.
Not so happy
Sasaki was OK with third but not thrilled. "So-so," he said with his usual cool demeanour. "The bike was good, I was in a big group and set a quick lap but then couldn't go any faster with all the other guys around. So I stopped and found some free track but then I was on my own and didn't have the slipstream I needed for a better lap."
Yurchenko was more disappointed. "Sure, I was quickest through free practice and I was happy with the bike. I was doing those times on my own, no slipstream and you can see from the trap speeds that I was down on top speed. Then in Qualifying I just didn't get the right lap in at the end."
"I had the fast sectors going but somehow lost it all at the end, I don't understand because apart from the chicane the last sector is all just about flat out. Still starting from fourth isn't a disaster, I don't think that is going to affect the race," he grinned.
After Bo Bendsneyder won both races from pole last year the local fans were hoping for a repeat, Soppe doesn't need the pressure. "Last year was a disaster here and I was determined to make it right by doing much better. We changed the gearing through practice then the suspension guys really helped me so the bike is good now, we just need to get racing."
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.