Twenty four young riders enjoyed the sun of southern Spain for the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies test of 2008, held at Jerez on February 25th and 26th. For many it was their first track time for months and they were just thrilled to be back in action. Fastest was Britain’s Matthew Hoyle ahead of the Spanish pair of Luis Salom and Cristian Trabalon with Sturla Fagerhaug of Norway fourth.
Starting its second year the Cup retains 10 riders from last year plus 14 new teenagers making it a truly global event with riders coming from as far afield as South Africa, Australia, America and Japan as well as across Europe from Finland and Norway to the Czech Republic and Spain.
Quickest of the newcomers was Mathew Scholtz. He shrugged off a high speed fall on the first day to be 5th fastest overall. “I really enjoyed that last session, I’m feeling a lot better now. My favourite bit of the track is the last fast left hander… the place where I crashed yesterday. I made a mistake, I was too fast but now I have a much better line and I am quicker but not crashing.”
For some of the newcomers the combination of a Grand Prix 125 and the Jerez Grand Prix circuit was a bit of a shock. “It’s the fast corners, they are really new to me,” said 12 year old Alessio Cappella, the Nigerian Italian who will only be able to start racing at the Mugello round once he is 13. He likes to be known as ‘Black Arrow’ and was very much enjoying his first outing on a 125 GP bike. “It is a lovely bike and a lot of fun, when the tyres get worn though, wow, you have to watch out.”
Fellow newcomer Kevin Calia, the 13 year old from Imola, said that he had the same reaction. “Sure it is the fast corners that are new for us, really something to learn. But the bike and the track are great and I am having a lot of fun. I know I need to do some more work on setting up the front suspension, then I will be happier.”
Austrian Nico Thöni was having a good time. “The best bit is the last corner, the tight left, I really enjoy that. The fast corners are not so easy, I know I have a bit to learn there.” It will be hard for him to have to watch the Rookie race action until he turns 13 and can join the others from the Assen round on June 28th.
Fin Niklas Ajo, another newcomer, had a positive reaction to the fast corners. “Those last right handers are the best part of the track, so much fun,” said the 13 year old who had only seen the track as a spectator before. I am also enjoying the KTM, the feeling is quite similar to the RS125 I have ridden so it is not too difficult to get used to and I am very happy with everything.”
For the old hands like 16 year old Matthew Hoyle from Bradford England there was nothing new about the track or the bike. “It is just great to be riding again, I have been waiting all winter for this, it’s just so great to be out on the track again.” Hoyle ended the 2007 season 3rd in the Cup standings and the highest place finisher to be in the series again for 2008. He was fastest over the two days and setting himself up and the man to beat.
Luis Salom will be another of the second year Rookies worth watching. The Assen 2007 winner was just glad to be back on a bike. “At home in Mallorca there is just nowhere to ride. It was so great to be back on the bike again and I just felt right at home immediately, I wasn’t pushing it, just relaxed, it felt great from the start.” said the 16 year old who was second fastest overall.
Fellow Spaniard, 15 year old Cristian Trabalon was just as happy to be riding again and third fastest. “I started the off season with my right arm in plaster for about a month after I broke my wrist testing in Valencia after the GP last year. I just had a bit of a go on a supermotard bike in the off season so it was great to be back on the KTM again.”
Fourth quickest, 16 year old Sturla Fagerhaug from Norway knows what he need to do before the start of the season proper. “I need to do some training and get more strength in my arms. I guess it is the time off the bike during the winter and I’m going to work on that. Otherwise it all went well, great to be back on the bike.”
Another with high hopes for his second year in the Cup is 16 year old American JD Beach who started 2007 as a complete road racing novice finding the switch from dirt track quite a jump. A year on things are very different. “It’s great, I’m about 3 seconds faster than I was last year and I’m running with Matt (Hoyle) and Deane (Brown). I couldn’t do that last year.”
Some of the newcomers had tried a 125 before but even for them joining the Rookies Cup means new experiences. For 14 year old Czech Jakub Kornfeil it was interesting to compare the KTM with the RS125 he has ridden before. “I am really enjoying the KTM, it is much nicer to ride, the handling is better and so I am having a lot of fun. It is a great track and I don’t think I am having any real problems, just learning.”
Of the two Japanese newcomers,14 year old Sasuke Shinozaki settled in quickest and said he loved the track. “The fast corners are so much fun, very exciting. I also like the hairpins so I am having a great time. I am used to an RS125 but the handling of the KTM is better, the bike is not so rigid.”
Daijiro Hiura was a little frustrated by a couple of bike problems and not as fast as he wanted to be. “I think I expected a lot of myself here and it just has not worked out the way I wanted. I really wanted to do well and I tried very hard.“ said the 13 year old who had shocked everyone with his speed as a wild card rider at the Valencia Rookies Cup race at the end of the 2007 season.
Daniel Kartheininger was one of the early fallers on the first day, a spectacular highside that brought down Jakob Kornfel and Adam Blacklock. He twisted his ankle and that put a dent in his performance for the rest of the test. “It is my left ankle, they X-rayed it and it’s not broken but it hurts and its stiff, not easy to change gear,” said the 15 year old from Memmingen, Germany.
After a day’s break the circus moves to Valencia for a further two days of testing on the 28th and 29th of February. There will then be a two day test at Estoril on March 22nd and 23rd before the Cup season starts alongside the Spanish MotoGP round at Jerez on March 29th and 30th with two Rookies Cup races.