With blistering early pace, 16-year-old Japanese Kaito Toba set the mark in the single qualifying session for this weekend's Gran Premio Red Bull de Espana at Jerez. Fellow countryman Ayumu Sasaki pushed him hard but was still 0.037 off at the end of 25 minutes. They were the only two to get below the 1 minute 50 second line.
Completing the front row is Spanish 15-year-old Aleix Viu. Heading the second row is Raúl Fernández, the second 15-year-old Spaniard who was slightly frustrated after topping both earlier free practice sessions ahead of Viu.
Japan ahead of Spain
Pole was clearly Toba's though and his pleasure was not dampened by a fall that saw him return to the pits for repairs. "Too much rear brake," he explained. "It didn't affect my confidence I was happy to get back out on the track again and the bike is great, perfect for the race."
"The bike was well set up from the test and though we made some small changes to front and rear suspension through the day, it was very little really. It is not going to be easy to run that pace in the race, a little slower probably, mid to high 50s should be race pace. It will be tough, just full speed."
Hard battle ahead
Fellow Japanese Sasaki agreed that it will be a hard race. "A lot of fast riders, the pace will be fast. Not into the 49s, I don't think, but to win I think you will have to lap in the low 1m 50s. We can do that OK, my bike is great, we only changed tiny things today, the bike was working well at the test and now we want to go racing."
At the preseason test Sasaki had shared quickest time with Fernández and the local hero had looked impressive through the two free sessions. The lap just didn't come together in qualifying though. "I was going for it right at the end, I had the first two sectors sorted and I knew it was a really good lap then one of the guys got in the way and wrecked it. I wasn't happy but it happens and I am happy enough because I know that the bike is really great, thanks to the engineers and to my dad."
"Today was a good day but of course it is the racing that counts and I am just going to go, go, go!"
Viu was right on the pace all through the day, second fastest in the free sessions and a couple of tenths off in Qualifying. "I'm very happy, we made some small changes early in the day and I'm very comfortable with the bike. The tyres were quite spent by the end of the session when I put in my quickest time so I am confident that I can actually go quicker in the race."
"I am going for the win or at least a good podium finish," he enthused.
This weekend's Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.
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.