It was Álvaro Carpe’s first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race but the 15-year-old Spaniard fought his more experienced fellow countryman Angel Piqueras for the win all the way to the last lap.16-year-old Piqueras just found a touch extra to win the first race of season 17 by 0.673 second over Carpe with Rico Salmela, the 15-year-old Finn taking an excellent 3rd less than 2 seconds further back at the Portimão finish line.
It was much more than a two KTM race with a host of early leaders including South African 16-year-old Ruché Moodley and Malaysian 15-year-old Hakim Danish enjoying his first Rookies Cup race.
Angel Piqueras had the answer: “I am happy that finally, I could win but it was not an easy race, I had to fight all the way. I planned to make a good start and try to break away but I didn’t get the start I needed and could not get a gap.We were battling all the way and I thought about the last lap. I realised that I could not leave it to the last corners, I had to get ahead and get clear for the last lap. I was able to take another step with the pace and get away just enough on the last lap.”
Álvaro Carpe living the dream: “If you asked me before the race if I would be on the podium I would say no,” he laughed, “Sure No. Now I am on the podium and this is awesome when I was a kid I dreamed of exactly this and I can’t believe that it has happened. Sure I will try and win tomorrow but if I end anywhere on the podium that will be OK… but yes I will try and win.”
Rico Salmela changed style: “At the start of the race I was struggling a bit, I was a bit nervous and I was in the group. In the middle of the group, I settled a bit and got to the front of the group but when I tried to get to the leading two my bike was having a few moments. So I had to change my riding style and that worked, the handling was better and I started to get away from the group and catch the riders on the front. I still need to start the catching a few more laps earlier. I might think about changing the bike for Race two, I had some moments on the rear but I still felt really good on the bike and enjoyed the race.”
Casey O’Gorman not thrilled: “I’m a bit disappointed with the result,” explained the 15-year-old Irishman “Because I felt that I had the pace to go with the front guys but the group I was with were always overtaking and the leaders got away. Then at the end Rico got past, I pushed so hard to catch him but finally I couldn’t. The bike was good but tomorrow I will stay with the front group and not get caught in the group, there is always something that can happen.”
Hakim Danish fighting at the front: “Yes, I am very happy with my first race in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. I was able to lead for a little and I finished P5. I felt good, I tried to fight in the front group but I made a few mistakes and I ran really wide. But I managed to catch the group again and could fight again. We did change the bike after Qualifying, it was better and good for the race, I think it can still be better and we will think if it is worthing trying another change for Race 2.”
Ruche Moodley learning from a single error: “The first lap I led, then coming into the second lap 4 riders overtook me, I didn’t want more riders to overtake me so into turn 3 I passed Rico, so then one rider that was making a pass to the rider in front of him backed out of the pass and I got really close to his wheel, I had to brake hard and the back end came around. I had to go straight. I learned my lesson today, I am not going to make the silly mistake again, I think I can race at the front.”
Race 2: Piqueras takes split second Rookies Portimão double
Angel Piqueras took an incredible second Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup win by just 0.002 seconds over fellow Spaniard Marcos Ruda in a blanket Portimão finish. Malaysian Hakim Danish was 0.015 seconds back in third 0.001 ahead of Ireland’s Casey O’Gorman.
Saturday’s winner Piqueras was only 4th through the final flat-out downhill left-hander but the 16-year-old pulled out of the 3 KTM slipstream to flash across the line a tyre’s width ahead.
Ruda led through that final turn but the 18-year-old had 15-year-old O’Gorman on his tail and looking the likely winner after a fabulous 14 laps.
By half distance, Màximo Quiles had broken away into a one-second lead that no one could close. The 15-year-old Spaniard then slid off with just 4 laps to go and could only remount and finish 11th. He had been pushed out of Race 1 on Saturday.
Angel Piqueras winning a mystery: “I don’t know how I won that,” he grinned. “I’ll have to look at the replay. On the last lap, I was 4th and didn’t think it was possible. The track is cold this morning, less grip and that changed things, the lap times were faster than yesterday but that is because we had no wind today. Maximo was pushing a lot, he got away and it was not easy to catch him, I don’t know, I was trying, perhaps we could have caught him over the last laps, I don’t know, we were all trying.”
Marcos Ruda from P19 to P2: “What an amazing race, I have no words to describe it. I was back in 19th on the grid, I got a good start and I just pushed and pushed all the way. Maximo was very fast and he got away from us. I got in front at the end and hoped I had enough to win, I knew it was so close at the line and none of us knew who was first. I have to thank everyone who has supported me because last year in Rookies Cup was a tough first season but now I am so happy.”
Hakim Danish a great start to his Cup career: “I am so happy with my first podium in Rookies Cup. In the race I felt really good with the bike, we worked hard this weekend and found a good setting. So thanks to everyone supporting me. I pushed to stay in the front group, In the end, I made some good overtakes and got in position to battle at the front. I was trying to win but on the last lap I made a mistake, the wrong gear in turn 5 and I lost the chance. I had to push hard to get back close to the front and on the podium.”
Casey O’Gorman should have won: “I thought I had it, I put myself in the position to be 2nd and have Ruda’s slipstream out of the last corner, Piqueras and Danish came from nowhere.It was .001 to the podium…. but there is always the next one.”
Rico Salmela missing grip: “At the start of the race I was very strong, but by the end of the race I was struggling a bit with the grip of the rear tyre. It was really difficult to get the drive to get the overtakes on corner exit.Still I’m quite happy… I want more but still, I am happy and we continue learning and go on to Jerez.”
Màximo Quiles fastest but…: “The race was very good, I was fast, I opened up a gap. The only thing was that at 4 laps to go I lost the front in turn 5. I tried to pick up the bike as quick as I could and finished P11.In the last 5 laps, I was talking to myself and telling myself to relax in this corner because I crashed 3 times here. I was talking talking and I think I talked myself into it.Still I am happy because I was the fastest and I will come back in Jerez.”