Can Öncü confirmed his status as favourite for the 2018 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup with an impressive victory in the first race of the season in Jerez. The 14-year-old Turk had to work hard for it though, only getting the better of first timer Carlos Tatay, the 14-year-old Spaniard, with two immaculate final laps.
It had been an eight-man battle for the lead and only the last quarter of the sixteen laps saw Tatay and Öncü get away. Czech 16-year-old Filip Salač closed them down though and chased them home with Deniz Öncü, twin brother of Can, taking a close fourth.
Can enjoys it all
"Yes that was a fun race," grinned Can. "It was a clean race all the way, the guys were fast and we really enjoyed it. I had a great battle with Carlos and I think it will be even more fun tomorrow. I bet the pace will be quicker, the race will be tougher. I'm happy with the bike and I have to say thanks to everyone involved who gives us the chance to do this."
No complaints either from Tatay. "I'm happy with that. It's OK for my first race. I pushed hard, I didn't want to make any mistakes in my first race and I am happy with second. Can was quick, when it came to the last lap I pushed hard in the first two sectors to try and catch him but then I realised that it wouldn't happen unless he made a mistake and he didn't."
Tatay will try again
"The bike is great, no reason to change anything there," admitted Tatay. "I will vary my rhythm a little in the race tomorrow, see if that makes a difference," concluded the thoughtful teen.
For Salač the result could have been better. "It was a good race but in the middle Yamanaka made a bit of a mistake and we lost touch with Can and Carlos. I went after them, worked hard to catch up but doing that wrecked the tyres and I had nothing left for the last laps."
"Tomorrow will be different, there is nothing much wrong with the bike, I just have to be in a better position towards the end."
A change of plan for Deniz
Far more frustrated was Deniz Öncü. "I wasted time saving my tyres, a big mistake. I spent the first ten laps just sitting in the slipstream of the others planning for the end. Then Yamanaka and Salač made a mess in front and I lost the group. I got past Yamanaka and went after Salač but by then it was too late and though I put in some quick laps it wasn't enough," commented the new lap record holder. "I will make a different race tomorrow."
Ryusei Yamanaka lost fifth to 14-year-old Spaniard Xavi Artigas at the end and the 16-year-old Japanese was less than impressed. "In the middle of the race I was cut off, I had to cut the throttle and we lost so much time recovering that we just couldn't catch back to the leaders, very frustrating. Maybe we change something on the bike for tomorrow, we'll think about it."
This weekend's 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, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.