Thursday's practice and qualifying sessions at Assen were all about chasing Bo Bendsneyder. The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup leader was quickest in all three sessions and in the all important qualifying the 16-year-old Dutchman set an early time 1 second quicker than anyone.
Australian 17-year-old Olly Simpson eventually cut that advantage to under half a second with Italian 16-year-old Fabio di Giannantonio just over a tenth slower and completing the front row.
Going fast quickly
Bendsneyder admitted that it was a conscious effort to put in a quick time early in qualifying. "With the new tyres here they are at their best for about five laps so I went for it and my fifth lap was quickest. I was still riding hard later on but it was more like a race pace than qualifying and I was happy with that also."
"The bike is really good, we made some changes after the first practice and I am confident with it. I think it will be a good race, my early pace should be quicker than the other guys but after that we are probably similar, we'll just see what happens," beamed the ever cheerful Netherlander.
And what about the pressure on Bendsneyder of racing at home, at the TT. "No pressure, I love it, family friends, fans I really enjoy it all." He won last year's Race 2 at Assen from Pole and coming off the double victories in Jerez that started this year he is very much the favourite.
Bendsneyder is confident but Simpson is equally confident of taking the fight to him. "I was happy with practice, the bike is working well and I was putting in good times late in the session when the tyres were worn so I think it will be a good race. You know that when it starts you can always find that bit extra," he concluded with his classic smile, determined to do better than the two thirds he took at Jerez.
Di Giannantonio is also sure that the race will not be like qualifying. "Of course I wanted to be first and I am third so that is disappointing but I think we can improve the bike for the race and that will make a big difference. When I was getting off the brakes the bike was running wide and I couldn't get on the gas so I will talk to the engineer and we will probably change that. If we can fix the problem I am sure I can race for the win." The Italian was 5th and 2nd in Spain.
Fourth fastest is Oscar Gutierrez and the 15-year-old Spaniard who was 2nd and 6th in Spain is also sure that it will be a battle all the way. "Bo did a great job today and we all have to try a bit harder tomorrow but I think it will be a battle between 5 or 6 at the front and it will only be decided at the last corner." he concluded with a knowing smile.
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 Friday and Race 2 is on Saturday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.