The USA's Jake Gagne won the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup by finishing second to Danny Kent in a fantastic close to the 2010 season in Misano, Italy, while Daijiro Hiura, the 16-year-old Japanese finished third in both race and Cup.
Californian 17-year-old Gagne started from back on the third row of the grid while 16-year-old Briton Kent was on pole, but Gagne made a nonsense of his qualifying position by jumping into fifth almost from the start and finishing the first lap in fourth place with Kent leading.
Gagne had gone into the race with an 11 point advantage over Kent and while the Briton clearly had the pace to win he soon realised that he needed to also try and influence what happened behind as Gagne moved into third on lap 2 behind 17-year-old Australian Josh Hook.
In a string of masterful moves Kent slowed the race down so that others could join the battle and hopefully push Gagne out of that essential third. It worked as Alessio Cappella, Kevin Calia, Daijiro Hiura, Daniel Ruiz, Brad Binder and Harry Stafford all joined the battle at the front.
“I realised what he was trying to do,” said Gagne. “He's clever and he needed to try and get the other guys between us. I just kept my head down and knew that as long as I was close to him I had a good chance of getting the points I needed.”
Kent tried everything. “I knew that I needed to get some other guys between us," Kent said. "Just two would have been enough so I played it every way I could, but Jake was just too good today and all credit to him he rode a great race. I did everything that I could, won the race but it wasn't enough. It's been a great season with a lot of great battles.”
Hiura was a little frustrated with third. “We were all so close that I didn't see my pit board and didn't realise it was the last lap. I really wanted to win the last race of the year.”
It was an incredible win after a tough weekend for Gagne, whose engine stopped in the first qualifying session meaning that he went out on an unfamiliar spare bike for the second. “It just didn't feel right and I couldn't do better than 10th in the 2nd session," Gagne said. "
"They put a good engine in my bike for the race and that was a lot better. I wasn't too worried I was pretty sure that if I made a good start I could run with the guys and do what I needed to take the Cup.”
It could so easily have turned out differently though if any of the top group had become tangled together, as was demonstrated when Hook highsided on lap eight and 15-year-old South African Binder fell swerving to avoid him. They were just behind the lead trio at the time, neither were hurt but were out of the race.
While 15-year-old Italian Kevin Calia had been towards the front from the start after qualifying third, an impressive charge came from 18-year-old Spaniard Ruiz who charged through from 15th on the grid to join the lead battle by lap eight.
Calia made great use of the slipstream through the ultra fast right handers down the back straight and led eight of the 17 laps across the line. “I enjoyed the race and did everything I could. It really was a great race, slipstreaming and everything but in the last lap Hiura and I just touched a bit and I was fourth – that's racing.”
Ruiz made it all the way to lead briefly and was in the hunt for the podium right up to the last lap. “In practice there was something wrong in my head and I was just trying too hard," Ruiz said. "For the race I freed myself up and enjoyed it, it was so much fun fighting my way through.
"Only at the end I was a little cautious because I didn't want to bump into Jake and Danny. Then on the last lap I got pushed a bit wide but fifth is not a bad end to the weekend and it's been a great year.”
Stepping down from the podium with his FIM Cup medal Gagne spoke of what the Rookies Cup has meant to him. “Just about all my roadracing experience has been in the Rookies Cup,” explained the ex-motocrosser.
“I started with the Rookies Cup in the US three years ago and then with these two years in the Rookies Cup in Europe I have learnt so much, not just the great GP tracks I've ridden on but so much about riding from the great coaches, Gustl (Auinger), Kevin (Schwantz) and Raul (Jara) and talking to the media, just everything to help me with my career.”
Red Bull Rookies Cup Misano result
1. Danny Kent (GBR) 30 minutes 59.551 seconds (139.082)
2. Jacob Gagne (USA) +0.060
3. Daijiro Hiura (JPN) +0.401
4. Kevin Calia (ITA) +0.577
5. Daniel Ruiz (ESP) +1.006
6. Harry Stafford (GBR) +1.055
7. Alessio Cappella (ITA) +1.363
8. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA) +2.189
9. Xavier Pinsach (ESP) +2.258
10. Alan Techer (FRA) +2.753
Red Bull Rookies Cup Final Standings
1. Jacob Gagne (USA) 170 points
2. Danny Kent (GBR) 164
3. Daijiro Hiura (JPN) 125
4. Daniel Ruiz (ESP) 115
5. Brad Binder (RSA) 109
6. Kevin Calia (ITA) 97
7. Harry Stafford (GBR) 79
8. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA) 56
9. Alessio Cappella (ITA) 53
10. Alexander Kristiansson (SWE) 52