Jerez Test triggers tenth season Rookies Cup excitement

Rufino Florido

Three days of preseason testing at Jerez ignited the tenth year of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. Though the final day was cold, wet and miserable the earlier beautiful sunshine saw the 24 identical KTMs propelling their teens towards Grand Prix careers.

While ex Rookie Brad Binder took the Moto3 World Championship lead in Argentina, Raúl Fernández and Ayumu Sasaki headed the timing sheets in Jerez where the season proper starts on April 23rd. Both are seen as favourites in this year's series after a number of intense battles for the podium places last season. Fernández is determined to start his campaign with a better performance than last year where he was pointless in the opening round.

"I really didn't enjoy Jerez last year," explained the 15-year-old Spaniard. "I was not happy with the bike setting at all. Now is completely different, it is working for me and I have a great feeling and great confidence. I am not pushing over the limit, there is certainly more to give when we come back for the race and I would say I've only been at about 90% here at the test. No need to take any risks. I am looking forward to the GP here in a few weeks and I am sure that Sasaki will be the big threat," he concluded with a broad smile.

New chargers

While Fernández and the other twelve returning Rookies know very well what to expect from 2016, for the eleven newcomers there is a lot to learn. "Yes," admits 14-year-old Czech Filip Salač. "I went much quicker on the second day than the first and we found that the bike setting was not right, I was struggling quite a bit with it so I have more work to do. It is a shame it is wet today so that we couldn't try anything but at least I have a good wet setting and the bike is fantastic."

Rider Coach Gustl Auinger is certainly happy with the riders. "We've got a great group this year and I have been particularly impressed how quickly the newcomers have got up to speed. I am interested to see how they make their own progress in many aspects without us telling them everything and most of them have been making very good progress," enthused the ex GP star.

Mind on the job

Fellow Coach Dani Ribalta was also impressed with the way they handled the treacherous conditions on the final day. "They've shown us what they can do when they are full concentrated. That is the key in these conditions, total concentration."

Big improver over 2015 is Walid Soppe, the 16-year-old Netherlander was 16th in last year's Cup but fourth quickest at this year's test. "I'm very happy, I feel completely different to last year. I think my head was too busy last season and now I feel a lot more in control. I now have the bike setting I need as well, I never found that last season, I didn't even really know what I was looking for."

Another of those in with every chance of battling for the 2016 Cup is Rory Skinner. "It would be great to start the year where I left off in Aragon," enthuses the 14-year-old Scot who scored a double third at the end of his first Cup season. "At least starting off in the top five and building from there. The test has gone very well, I am very happy with everything. We are running settings close to what we ended up with last year and I've got real confidence to push the bike now. Today, in the wet has been more like home," he concludes with a grin.

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