A spare bike and a sensational last lap gave Bo Bendsneyder pole position for the first two Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup races of the season. Fabulous sunshine blessed Friday's three sessions at Jerez and the 16-year-old Netherlander was in great form.
Two Free Practice sessions then the crucial Qualifier and Bendsneyder started that final session with obvious determination, a quick lap put him on top of the timing list but then a technical problem put him in the pits.
Chilling in the pit lane
As he coolly waited, the mechanics searched for the problem and on the track the other Rookies were pushing the Dutchman off the top. The technical staff realised they needed to use a spare bike so the fairing and suspension settings were swapped over. By the time he got back on track there were just a few minutes of Qualifying left.
As Bendsneyder settled in on the new bike Olly Simpson took pole, the 17-year-old Australian getting the better of 15-year-old Spaniard Oscar Gutierrez. It all looked settled but sensationally Bendsneyder leapt to pole with only his third and final flying lap on his new mount.
Not expecting pole
"That was a surprise," admitted Bendsneyder, with his classic, face brightening smile. "When I went out I thought that a top five time would be good and that is what I thought I had done, I certainly didn't think it was pole."
"The bike felt quite a bit different to mine, especially the brakes but I was enjoying it and it worked out OK. I have to thank the mechanics who did a fantastic job to get me out there again," concluded Bendsneyder, winner of last year's Race 2 at Assen.
Thinking of tomorrow
Simpson was his usual cheerful self, not apparently distressed to miss out on pole. "That was a good race pace I think. We had really good bike settings from the test here and the bike was really good. I learnt a bit from some of the other guys where I thought I could do better but then I set the times on my own. I think it should be a good race."
Gutierrez believes the race will be close. "I can see it being 5 or so guys battling for the lead. It was a tough session, the guys were pushing hard but I did my times on my own. I'm happy with the bike, we changed it a little after I felt the rear was sliding a bit at the start of the day and the front was a bit hard but the engineers sorted it out very well. It's tomorrow that counts, that's when we get the points."
Fourth fastest and the quickest of the first year Rookies is Kaito Toba, the 15-year-old Japanese. "That's OK," he admitted. "I was trying pretty hard. The bike is working well and I think that we can have a good race, let's see."
Race 1 is at 16.30 CET on Saturday and Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.