Ai Ogura overcame a first lap collision that knocked down both Can Öncü and Aleix Viu and rode a brilliant race to stamp his authority on the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the weekend. The 16-year-old Japanese recovered from the incident at the second tight right hander, slotting into tenth place, but took the lead on lap four.
Though chased hard by fellow Japanese 16-year-old Kazuki Masaki and 15-year-old Ryusei Yamanaka, Ogura inched away to win convincingly and they filled the rostrum places. Can Öncü remounted his KTM RC 250 R to finish 14th and Aleix Viu 10th.
Though Ogura made the win look comfortable it was far from it, as he revealed when he limped painfully from the bike in parc fermé. “I was in a lot of pain from the ankle through the race. I was hit at the second corner and almost crashed, then almost crashed again in a collision going away from the corner. It was very hard, especially over the bump into turn one.”
“I didn’t change the bike after qualifying,” explained Ogura. “It is still only 80% right but I would rather ride it like that than risk making it worse. I will do the same tomorrow.”
Looking for something extra for Sunday’s Race 2 is second placed Masaki. “When I saw Viu and Öncü go out on the first lap I thought immediately that I must take points for the Cup. Then when Ogura came past he was faster and I had a bit of a problem with my rear suspension.”
“I couldn’t catch him so I just concentrated on finishing well in second place and I am very happy that I managed that, it is very good for the championship. I need to improve the bike so we will probably change it for tomorrow and hope to challenge for the win.”
Yamanaka was happy enough about his bike but not the result. “It was a difficult race. Ogura was on his own and we were trying to catch him. I think I could have done that, my bike was working very well but instead I was battling with Masaki and the others and I couldn’t get a clear run to chase Ogura. I hope the race works out differently tomorrow because I think that I can race with him.”
Though it was mostly the three Japanese at the front, the second place battle also featured Adrián Carrasco, the 14-year-old Spaniard who took a fine fourth ahead of German 17-year-old Matthias Meggle. The pair mixed it with Masaki and Yamanaka a few times but neither could break through and go after Ogura.
“I really enjoyed that race,” enthused Carrasco, seemingly a little surprised that he was so close to a rostrum finish. “The bike was great, it was just at the end of the race when I managed to get into second, then the rear tyre was sliding around quite a lot and I couldn’t stay there.”
“A tough race,” admitted Meggle. “I was losing out on the straights and having to brake so hard just to catch back up. I was doing that but I couldn’t get past them. It was all I could do to stay with them.”
A tough race for Meggle, far tougher for Can Öncü. “I’m OK,” said the 14-year-old Turk back in the garage but he really didn’t look it and his bike was even in a worse state, no gear lever peg and a broken clutch lever as well as a lop-sided fairing. Pretty much a miracle that he picked up two points for fourteenth. The Cup leader was unusually quiet and naturally exhausted after the fall and the tough race. He had a medical check after the race but was passed fit.
Viu hadn’t taken the knock that Öncü did but had to work hard for his six points. “When I picked the bike up and got going I took it a bit easy to make sure everything was OK before I really pushed, then I managed to catch people and was lapping at the same pace as the leaders. So I’m happy with that, not the result but that the pace was there and I can have a good race tomorrow.”
This weekend’s Rookies Cup races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.
Race 2 is on Sunday at 15.30, the show starts 10 minutes before the race.
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