A two-day test in Estoril was great preparation for the first two races of the 2008 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup run next weekend alongside the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez on March 29th and 30th.
Fastest was Norway’s Sturla Fagerhaug ahead of Spaniard Luis Salom and Scot Deane Brown. 16 year old Fagerhaug was well to the front in most of the sessions but showed that he was pushing the limit by crashing twice during the second day. 16 year old Salom said he was keeping things cool with one eye on his home Grand Prix and another on 14 year old Brown who he joked spent the weekend in his slipstream.
Fagerhaug was 4th fastest in both the Jerez and Valencia tests, a significant step forward from last year and he jumped forward again in Estoril. He was 11th in the Cup last year but has now made a perfect build-up to his second season. "OK so I’ve been fast at the tests and it would seem easy to say, ‘I want to be Rookies Cup champion’ but you’ve got to be serious when you set goals. Hopefully I’m going to be battling for podium positions consistently and I want to win some races.
"Top 5 in the championship is a goal and better than that would be nice. I’m certainly ready to go racing now, we’ve done enough testing and I really enjoy Jerez. It’s a good track, tricky in places and it should be 2 great races there,"Â? concluded Fagerhaug.
He knows that there will tough opposition right from the start especially from Salom who was just 4 tenths slower and has the home town advantage. "I am happy with the bike now, it is all working very well and I want the season to start,"Â? said Salom. "Perhaps Jerez is not the easiest start for me, of course there is going to be a bit of pressure racing at my home GP but the track is OK and I will just do my best.
"It’s been funny here today," continued Salom. "Every time I looked round I seemed to have Deane Brown stuck to my tail, sure every time, that’s racing," said the 16 year old Spaniard with a broad grin. "For sure he’s going to be one of the guys I’ll be racing with next weekend in Jerez, Brown and Trabalon. Trabalon knows the track, I think he’s done a lot of laps there so he will be challenging. Hopefully I will be battling for the podium but we have a lot of good riders and it is not going to be easy."
"I’m ready to go racing,"Â? said Brown. "It’s been a tricky couple of days here and I’m looking forward to Jerez. I am not expecting too much. We’ll see what happens there. The main thing is to be consistent. We learnt that last year, just keep finishing in the top five and do as well as you can, you can’t try to go out and win every race."Â?
The second of the Spaniards, Cristian Trabalon, was more dramatic with his attitude to his home Grand Prix. "I know that when I see the crowd there it will do something to me, it’s going to give me a big heart and make me want to push harder,"Â? said the 15 year old with a determined thrust on imaginary handlebars. "The test here was OK but I’m thinking of Jerez. The bike is working well, I’m happy with everything and I just want to go and race."
Rider Coach Gustl Auinger summed it up. "It’s been a tough two days for the guys, eight sessions in difficult windy conditions and especially for the real youngsters it is difficult. It is very hard for a thirteen year old to maintain concentration like this but they are learning and now they want to go racing. I have told the kids to take a break from motorsport for a few days, don’t think about it too much and come to Jerez a little hungry to get on with the first two races of the year.
"It is great to see some of the newcomers near the front, like Nelson Major, he always seems to be fast. I am also pleased that it always seems to be different names in the positions 5 to 15 so I think we are going to have a very competitive Cup right from the start."
Portuguese 13 year old Miguel Oliveira was tenth fastest over the two days despite missing the last two sessions after a number of crashes and he will compete in the Estoril Cup round on April 12th as a Wild Card.
22 of the 24 Rookies will race in Spain as two of them are not yet 13 and must await a later start to their season; Alessio Cappella at Mugello on May 31st and Nico ThÃ¶ni at Assen on June 28th.
Combined Times Estoril Test March 22nd & 23rd
1 33 Sturla Fagerhaug NOR 1:51,445
2 39 Luis Salom ESP 1:51,865
3 7 Deane Brown GBR 1:52,184
4 92 Cristian Trabalon ESP 1:52,238
5 69 Nelson Major FRA 1:52,600
6 46 Daijiro Hiura JAP 1:52,984
7 74 Kevin Calia ITA 1:53,013
8 59 JD Beach USA 1:53,107
9 20 Mathew Scholtz RSA 1:53,150
10 44 Miguel Oliveira POR 1:53,172
11 99 Joshua Elliott IRL 1:53,251
12 84 Jakub Kornfeil CZE 1:53,442
13 68 Sasuke Shinozaki JAP 1:53,515
14 28 Markus Reiterberger GER 1:53,682
15 22 Daniel Ruiz ESP 1:53,770
16 32 Matthew Hoyle GBR 1:53,860
17 52 Adam Blacklock GBR 1:53,975
18 30 Dylan Mavin AUS 1:54,194
19 3 Daniel Kartheininger GER 1:54,626
20 36 Nico ThÃ¶ni AUT 1:55,104
21 21 Florian Marino FRA 1:55,370
22 11 Niklas Ajo FIN 1:55,632
23 6 Peter SebestyÃ©n HUN 1:55,886
24 27 Alessio Cappella NIG 1:56,430
25 24 Harry Stafford GBR 1:57,369