Two stunning performances in beautiful Tuscan sunshine put Daniel Ruiz on pole and Nicolo Antonelli on the other side of the front row in 4th for Saturday's Red Bull MotoGP Cup race at Mugello. 18 year old Spaniard Ruiz bettered the rest by 4 tenths of a second but it was Italian 14 year old Antonelli's effort that had the pit lane buzzing as he has never ridden at Mugello before.
Between them, points leading 16 year old Briton Danny Kent was happy with second ahead of 15 year old Japanese Daijiro Hiura. Heading the second row is 17 year old South African Mathew Scholtz, one of the few top riders not to improve his time from the first qualifying that had placed him on provisional pole.
Scholtz held that leading position in fact until the last 4 minutes of the 2nd half hour session when Ruiz jumped to pole ahead of Hiura and Antonelli. With just 2 minutes remaining Kent stole 2nd and Scholtz was bumped to the second row ahead of Alessio Cappella, Alejandro Pardo and Brad Binder.
The 4 tenths that Ruiz grabbed over the opposition is hard to come by in Rookie competition. “I was just so happy with the bike and feeling very comfortable. We made some small suspension changes and instead of the bumps upsetting the bike it just ran over them perfectly, giving me great feeling. Getting a slipstream her is worth half a second and I picked up one from Daijiro that worked perfectly. I think it will be another great race tomorrow, just like we had at Jerez.”
After the 8 or 10 man lead battles in both races at Jerez Hiura has other plans. “I am happy with qualifying and the bike, I'm on the front row and the bike is working well. I am going to push hard from lap 2 and try and break away, that is what I need to do.”
Kent thinks it will be another close one and is thrilled to have a good chance to be at the front. “I was back on the 3rd row last year here, I just didn't get on with the track. So I'm happy to be on the front row and especially with a time I set at the end of the session with worn tyres. I think it is going to be another close race, the slipstream down the front is so important here I don't think anyone will get away.”
Antonelli is looking forward to racing in front of his home crowd and does not seem at all phased by the attention his performance is getting. “The bike is good, I enjoy the track, we will make a small change to the rear suspension for the race but I am happy.” So can he translate a front row start into a podium finish? “Yes, I hope,” grins the kid who weighs just 42kg (94lbs) and is 1m 55cm tall (5ft 1in) – all light riders carry compensating weight.
The second rider who should be in the hunt at his home GP is Cappella who was brought down by another rider at the end of the first qualifying session but was unhurt and had no problem using the back-up bike. “It worked fine, just like my own bike and I am very happy with the way the session went, I love the track and want to have a great race tomorrow.”
Another Italian with high hopes is Pardo who stands beside him on the 2nd row of the grid but was far less happy. “The front was sliding everywhere, I just couldn't get on the gas and we must change the suspension for tomorrow. I just hope it works.”
From 5th place Scholtz is hoping to brush aside the disappointment he felt at Jerez where he finished 8th and 4th. “That session was OK but we had changed the rear suspension a bit and the rear was sliding a lot more than it did in the first session. I'm not unhappy with practice, I think it will be a good close race and I'm looking forward to it.” Fellow countryman Brad Binder had also starred in the first session but the 14 year old also did not improve and slipped to 8th on the grid.
1. Daniel Ruiz (ESP) 2 minutes 3.873 seconds
2. Danny Kent (GBR) +0.406
3. Daijiro Hiura (JPN) +0.468
4. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA) +0.602
5. Mathew Scholtz (RSA) +0.672
6. Alessio Cappella (ITA) +1.003
7. Alejandro Pardo (ITA) +1.097
8. Brad Binder (RSA) +1.341
9. Kevin Calia (ITA) +1.448
10. Harry Stafford (GBR) +1.516