Red Bull Rookies Assen Preview
It is mid summer, the longest days, the best days to be in the Netherlands and at the Dutch TT. Racing is on Sunday for the first time in the event’s history but otherwise it is action as usual with packed grandstands and some very nationalistic spectators all looking out for their local heroes; Walid Soppe, Sander Kroeze and Victor Steeman on the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup KTMs.
Last year Bo Bendsneyder won both races from pole, heading for overall Cup victory, so the Dutch have high expectations. It is a huge ask of their first year Rookies, 14-year-old Kroeze, and Steeman, who has just turned 16. Even for Soppe it will be a stretch but the 16-year-old has started his second season very well with 6th and 4th in Jerez.
While fellow ex Rookie Brad Binder, Bo Bendsneyder’s team mate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, looks to extend his Moto3 World Championship lead, this year’s 24 are keen to follow in his footsteps. Those heading the charge after the first two races in Spain are both 15, Spaniard Aleix Viu and Japanese Ayumu Sasaki, tied on points after their great battles in Jerez.
They will be expecting tough contests in Assen, probably featuring the same rivals who raced them all the way to the flag in races 1 and 2. Rufino Florido, the 16-year-old Spaniard lies third in the title chase and is six points ahead of Soppe. An obvious candidate as is Makar Yurchenko, the 17-year-old Russian who has taken a big step forward this season.
Manuel González is looking strong in his first Rookies season, he lies sixth in the title chase and could challenge the more established names. The 13-year-old was the Golden Bib winner for last year’s Selection Event and is repaying the confidence of his supporters. Applications for this year are now open – http://www.redbullrookiescup.com/join-us – so prospective Rookies, prospective World Champions, should sign up now.
Raúl Fernández is in his second season and one of the favourites coming into this year. The 15-year-old Spaniard might have won two races in Jerez but while he took third in Race 1 he slipped off challenging for victory at the last corner in Race 2. Standing seventh in the points table he could make up all the lost ground this coming weekend, he was 9th and 7th last season.
Eighth and ninth in the points are Italians Kevin Zannoni and Omar Bonoli. 15-year-old Zannoni took a pair of 8ths in his first Rookies Cup races, followed home both times by Bonoli, 14, who is in his second year. They are ahead of Marc Garcia, the 16-year-old Spaniard who was knocked off before Race 1 started in Jerez and took fifth in Race 2. He really should be at the front, a strong rider in his third season.
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.
Source: Red Bull MotoGP Rookies