Kazuki Masaki won an incredible penultimate Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race to claim the 2017 Cup. The 17-year-old Japanese flashed across the line one hundredth of a second ahead fellow Ai Ogura with Aleix Viu third and Can Öncü fifth. That finished the Cup challenge for Viu and Öncü.
Any one of six including Deniz Öncü and Filip Salač could have won on the final of 15 laps. It was Viu who led down the back straight but Masaki timed his run perfectly. "I hung back a little because I knew I had the slipstream and didn't want to catch him too early in the back straight," explained Masaki. "I got it just right and went into the last corner first."
Change of plan
It was not the way that Masaki had mapped out the final lap. "I went for the lead and tried to pull away but Viu came past again. So then I had to change my plan and catch the slipstream on the straight."
"It was a very tough race, I pushed from the first few laps but it became a big group and I just tried to stay near the front and then pushed again at the end. I really wanted to win the Cup today and not have to fight for it tomorrow, I'm very happy of course, very happy."
Change of gearing
Japanese 16-year-old Ai Ogura had only qualified eighth after winning two of the last three races but he knew the race would be better. "I went for gearing that was too high in qualifying, that was a mistake and we changed it for the race. Of course I want to win tomorrow but I think the race will be faster, we'll see."
Viu had gone for short gearing in qualifying and stayed with it for the race. "I don't know, it didn't help down the back straight for the last time," admitted the 17-year-old Spaniard. "But you never know, it certainly helped in other places and I was happier with it."
"It was a great race, a very hard race and I did everything I could," continued Viu. "The track temperature was hotter than yesterday and the surface very different. I didn't feel that I had the same grip in the race as I did in qualifying, especially from the rear so I didn't feel perfect on the bike. I rode as hard as I could and I'll do the same tomorrow trying to take second in the Cup."
Change of fortune
"I'm not at the front of the Cup any more," admitted Can Öncü, the 14-year-old Turk who topped the points table for much of the year and won four out of five races mid season. "That's how it is, I will come back next year and try and win. It was a hard race and when I got pushed to the back of the group I tried to fight my way back to the front but the others were all fighting hard and there was no way through."
Twin brother Deniz was also in the lead battle and almost made it to the podium. "I made too many mistakes early on, messed up the gears, just too many mistakes," he explained. "Then I took a big breath, settled down and pushed again. I was there in the slipstream into the last corner, trying to go around the outside, we were all battling for the slipstream to cross the line and I just lost out.... so fourth. Tomorrow, Full Gas," he emphasised with his classic smile and a twist of the wrist.
This weekend's Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world. Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.
Race 1 Classification download
Cup Points Classification download