Manuel Pagliani knocked Jorge Martín from pole position in the dying moments of qualifying for the first race of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup season. In brilliant Jerez sunshine but with a stiffening breeze, 17-year-old Italian Pagliani was is great form, chasing Martín, the 16-year-old Spaniard, who had set the pace, bettering the lap record with his first flying lap.
Sensation of the day though was 14-year-old Spaniard Oscar Gutierrez who had headed the second free practice session and finally pushed Martín to third in the last breath of qualifying. The sensational aspect is that Gutierrez, a first year Rookie, has never ridden at the track before. "No, it is my first time – but I love it!' he said with expansive enthusiasm.
Pagliani in front
"That was a good job," grinned Pagliani who failed to finish either race at Jerez last year. "The bike is working well, towards the end it was sliding around a lot at the rear but that is the heat, it is the same for everyone and I am not worried about the setting for the race, we will go with the bike the way it is."
Of course Martín, who dominated the Aragon preseason test and won Race 1 here last year, was slightly frustrated. "Yes I am a bit annoyed, I went out to be quick from the start and kept the pace going. Then at the end I just wanted to push a bit more to make sure I kept pole but I ran wide on that last lap and messed it up. Still, the bike is good, no problem at all and it will be a great race."
Mir heads second row
Joan Mir, the 16-year-old Spaniard who had pushed Martín hard at the test, was also disappointed to be heading the second row. "I am not happy, because I know that I can do more. We had to sort out the bike a bit and then things were better and I could improve, we made the rear harder and that helped things. I still need to do better though and we will think about a change to the front for the race."
Also looking for more is 16-year-old Briton Brad Ray who put himself fifth. "I'm not really happy with that. I just couldn't seem to get a clear lap and make it work. I was still battling for space at the end and by then the tyres had gone. Still, the race is another thing and we are not far away, it should be a good one. I would still like to get the trail braking sorted out though."
There was a happy Dutchman in sixth with 15-year-old Bo Bendsneyder, the second of the first year boys content with an excellent effort. "The bike was a whole lot better than in free practice so I enjoyed that. There is still more to come both from me and the bike though, the rear was sliding a lot towards the end but of course the tyres were worn. I think I can find a little more from myself for the race."
Gutierrez the one to watch
The last word should go to newcomer Gutierrez who looked so smooth and comfortable at his front row pace. "It is such a wonderful track, those fast corners, just so great. I was really enjoying it and so it was no problem to keep pushing. The bike is working and I don't need to make any changes for the race."
Tomorrow's Rookies Cup race can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world at 16.30 CET.
Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before each race.