Italian 16-year-old Mattia Casadei snatched pole position from Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup leader Ayumu Sasaki in the last seconds of Misano qualifying. It had been Raúl Fernández, the 15-year-old Spaniard, who had looked strongest through most of the session but Sasaki, the 15-year-old Japanese, deposed him on the last lap only to then be nudged aside by Casadei.
Saturday's single race at Misano is the first of the three remaining in the 2016 season and Sasaki has had the lead since the first weekend of the year in Jerez. He is 26 points ahead of Aleix Viu, the 15-year-old Spaniard, who qualified fourth and had left Spain tied for the lead at the beginning of the season.
There are still 75 points to be won and Sasaki admitted that he was feeling the pressure. "It was a bit more difficult today than at other races. I was a bit nervous, I know I still need to score good points and I wasn't comfortable with the bike setting. We changed it a lot through the day and it was only at the end that we got the bike better and I settled myself down so I could ride well."
"Congratulations to Casadei for his pole at home, well done. But I will race him for the win," enthused Sasaki with a big smile. "I won't be nervous tomorrow."
It is Casadei's first pole but it hasn't come from nowhere. "Since the Red Bull Ring I have found a good bike setting and I have got more and more confident with the bike. Before I just couldn't ride it the way I wanted, I just couldn't find the right setting," explained Casadei who fought at the front of Race 1 at Brno and finished sixth after qualifying fourth.
"Now the bike isn't perfect but I understand it and it is OK for me, I have a good feeling with it and I didn't have to ride over the limit in qualifying. I think I can make a really good race."
Fernández was smiling as usual but a touch disappointed. "Yes I should have been on pole," he grinned. "It was a very hard fought session though and everyone is so close."
The top 13 KTM RC 250 Rs are covered by less than a second but Fernández doesn't think the race will reflect that. "No I think it will be a small group battling for the lead. I am very happy with my bike, I was happy from the start of Free Practice this morning and we haven't changed anything. I don't think anyone will run away with the race, it should be a good battle."
With Marc Garcia missing Misano because of a broken finger sustained in a non Cup event, the contest for the Cup should be between Sasaki, Viu and Fernández, with the latter needing to make up 32 on the Japanese.
Viu heads the second row and is up for the battle. "I was on the front row until the last lap and I am happy with the bike. I can do that pace on my own so I should be able to fight for the win. I have a good feeling about the race, that was qualifying but I can get my own back on them tomorrow," he concluded with his classic smile.
Misano's single racer is at 16.30 CET on Saturday September 10th and can be seen live on TV channels around the globe and on www.redbull.tv with the show starting 10 minutes before the race.