Three days of testing in Jerez in fabulous sunshine have prepared the 24 teenagers for the ninth season of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. For many of the fifteen newcomers it was the first chance to ride the Moto3 specification KTM RC 250 R 4-stroke.
One of the first year Rookies is 14-year-old Ayumu Sasaki who sensationally headed the timing sheets. That didn't surprise him. "I was confident, I started off just getting used to the KTM, it is very different to what I have ridden before but now I really like it. Unfortunately I got bumped by another rider and fell today and otherwise I think I could have gone quicker so I did not think I would be quickest but my body is OK so that is good and I am looking forward to the first race."
Chasing him hard was fellow countryman Kaito Toba, winner of last year's Asia Talent Cup. "I'm very happy, this testing week really has gone well, I am happy with the rhythm, the bike setting and the lap time. I was looking forward very much to coming here and I am certainly not disappointed, the KTM is very different to the bike I raced last year in the Asia Cup, it took me a little while to understand it and get the setting right but now it feels really great."
"I am also now enjoying the track, there are some hard braking corners and a lot of high speed corners and it took me a little while to get used to them," concluded 15-year-old.
At the other end of Rookies Cup experience is 17-year-old Australian Olly Simpson who can't wait to get started on his third season after ending the test third quickest. "The bike is very good, I like the improvements that they made from last year and we didn't have to change very much ourselves through the test, just some setting details and I feel very comfortable on the bike."
"I was working hard through the winter and I can feel the benefit of that, in the race simulation I felt strong and it is the training that I was doing at home in Australia," explained Simpson, who is well qualified to give his opinion on the KTM.
"We did some testing and made a little change in the steering geometry and the front fork," explained Alex Batlle, Rookies Cup Technical Director.
One of the favourites for the season is obviously 16-year-old Italian Fabio Di Giannantonio as he ended last season eighth in the title chase and all those ahead have graduated to the World Championship and other series. "We worked hard this week and it has really made a difference, mainly we were not going for lap time but to get the bike set up so that I could run a good race rhythm. We changed quite a lot with the bike and really made an improvement over last year. Now we are running harder springs back and front and this is giving me more confidence."
"It all made a difference and in the race simulation I crossed the line first so I was very happy with that and it showed that we were working in the right direction through the three days."
One of the big improvers from last year is 16-year-old Dutchman Robert Schotman. "I am very happy with the way things have gone, I have taken a big step forward, especially compared with last year. Last year, riding alone I could lap at 1:53 and now I can do 51s. What has made the difference is really the fast corners. Last year I could run with the other guys through the slow corners but just didn't have the confidence through the fast sections."
"Now I am a bit heavier and I have more confidence in the front through the fast corners so I am close to the quick guys pretty much everywhere. It's my second year and I've got more experience as well as more confidence."
Just how well the twenty four have prepared will be tested at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez with the first two Rookies Cup races of the year on May 2nd and 3rd.