–  Hanika tops Red Bull Rookies Test – Simpson 20th

The initial 2 day test at Jerez for the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup concluded in glorious sunshine after a miserable wet and cold opening day on Friday. Quickly getting used to the brand new KTM RC 250 R Moto3 4-strokes after swapping from the 125 2-stroke KTMs that sustained the Cup through its first 6 years the teenagers were thrilled with their new mounts.

Fastest overall was 16 year old Czech Karel Hanika, winner of 3 Rookies Cup rounds in 2012. “It’s completely different to the 125, it is very smooth through the corners and a really great bike. There is no problem really to make the switch from the 2-stroke but we still have work to do. Mainly it is on the suspension. I was having trouble with the front but the WP engineer sorted that out for me. Now I am going quicker and the rear is sliding a lot through the fast corners so that is something we are working on.”

It was typical Hanika that he took time to get things sorted out before topping the timing chart. In fact it was some of the newcomers who were fastest in the cold and wet on day one with 14 year old Californian Anthony Alonso setting the pace,“ I just love everything about being here, the great bike, the leathers, everything. It’s all new of course so I know that I still have a lot to learn, just working on getting to know the bike better and getting the best out of it,” he concluded, finishing Saturday in 11th place.

13 year old Italian Stefano Manzi who was 2nd fastest overall for the 2 days, finding no problem swapping bikes for his 2nd Cup year. “This is my first time on a Moto3 bike but it is not difficult to ride at all. It is a fantastic bike and the first thing you notice is that this bike turns into the corners much easier than last year’s I really like that, I’ve got no problems at all with the bike and I am looking forward to the next test and the racing season.”

The diminutive youngster just edged out Lukas Trautmann, the 17 year old Austrian who was just as thrilled with the way things went. “We’ve had a great start to the year apart from the weather. The bike is fantastic, a wonderful first impression. It is also an easy bike to ride and you can see that we’ve got a good bunch of riders this year and I think it is all going to be very close. Hopefully the next test in a couple of weeks will have better weather because there is still work to do on the suspension we made progress here though and the WP guys have already got ideas on what we want to try next time.”

Trautmann is looking forward to his 3rd Cup season but in 4th place on the timing sheets was a newcomer, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu, the 16 year old Turk who was also quick in the wet on day 1. “The bike is really wonderful, I expected a good bike but this is really something special. I am enjoying everything about it, from the engine, the handling, to the tyres. I am enjoying it everywhere apart from on the straight because I am a bit big and heavy compared with some of the guys.”

Another newcomer happy with life is Enea Bastianini, the 15 year old Italian who was 6th fastest. “It is a lovely bike, I have been racing 2-strokes before but it is easy to ride this, no problem at all. The main thing we have to work on at the next test is the chattering, then we can go quicker.”

Jordan Weaving, the 15 year old South African was 7th fastest, wearing a grin from ear to ear, far happier than he had been on the 125 last season. “What a fantastic bike, better than anything else I have ever ridden. It’s been years since I rode a 4-stroke race but making the swap from the 2-stroke is not difficult, at least not to the KTM. The noise is just wonderful, the engine braking, the way it will drive out of a tight corner in 3rd, just incredible.”

Another improving his standing since last year is 17 year old Scot Tarran Mackenzie, 13th overall. “I just love the bike, it is the best thing that I have ever ridden. The engine is great, it’s got so much grunt from low down, it just pulls so well out of the corners. It makes it very forgiving, if you make a mistake it will still pull you out of the corner, much more forgiving than a 125. For me the main thing I need to work on is the rear suspension, the back was sliding around a lot in the last 2 sessions.”

Just 2 places behind, Bradley Ray, the 15 year old Briton, “What a great bike, I’m very happy with it and the test. The main thing we still have to work on is the suspension, both front and rear. I’ve got chattering through the corners and I can’t turn in the way I want to. We’ve got another 2 day test to get that sorted out and we’ve already learnt a lot here. For sure the bike is easier to ride than the 125 and I think that is going to make the racing even closer than last year.”

There is a 2nd test at Jerez on March 12 and 13th. The first GP of the race season kicks off for the Rookies at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas on April 20th and 21st.