Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup riders wrapped up a challenging weekend at the Silverstone circuit in the UK on Sunday after completing two rounds of the cup in entirely contrasting conditions. Points leader Bo Bendsneyder came out on top with both and impressive win on Saturday in round 9, and a cautious, but safe third place on Sunday in round 10 to further extend his points lead.
Bendsneyder was always going to be the man to beat on Saturday and in fact dominated the 14-lap race, leading the front group of six down to the final laps before breaking away for a comfortable victory. He was helped in this final stage when Fabio Di Giannantonio, who was right on his tailpipe, accidentally hit neutral and lost the tow. Di Giannantonio, who initially fought his way from ninth at the start to be a major challenger, went on to take second while Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki survived a scuffle in the last lap that send two other podium contenders into the gravel.
“It was frustrating at first,” Bendsneyder said after Saturday’s race. “I was just pushing and pushing and then I really gave it everything for two laps and finally got away. That was a great feeling, to finally see an advantage on the pit board. By the end the rear was sliding around quite a lot but otherwise the bike was great.”
It was Bendsneyder and his main rival Italian Giannantonio, who dominated Saturday’s race but where the Dutch rider managed to survive unscathed by taking a cautious line in the wet on Sunday, the Italian was back at eleventh at the end of the second day.
Sunday’s race saw a win for Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki, who was third the previous day. French rider Enzo Boulomfought him all the way to the end in the wet race, finally conceding defeat in the last meters. Marc Garcia of Spain was a major player in the early part of Sunday’s race but like many of the young riders, got caught out by the conditions and slid off the circuit.
Ayumu Sasaki on the other hand took the cautious approach: “It wasn’t easy, at first I didn’t have a good pace and rhythm, I really had to follow Enzo. He was doing a good job and pulled us away. I could build my confidence and then in the end I knew I could go quicker.” It was Sasaki’s first win in the series.
Enzo Boulom admitted he was unable to match Sasaki’s pace in the closing stages, saying: “It was a tough race, I really enjoyed it and I pushed as hard as I could. In the end I could not go quicker when Ayumu came past, he was riding well and just had the extra pace. Still I’m happy to be on the podium and want to do the same in Misano.”
Meanwhile Bendsneyder’s Sunday race was clever and still allowed him to pick up points for his third place: “I knew that Fabio (Di Giannantonio) was well back because I saw it on the big TV screen. I was going to pick up good points on him so there was no sense in taking any chances. It was close when Garcia fell in front of me on lap one; I almost clipped him and had to go wide. Still it was no problem in the end and I’m happy with the great weekend.”
Bendsneyder leaves Silverstone with an impressive 52-point lead over Di Giannantonio and there are still 75 points still up for grabs in the remaining three races – one at Misano in a fortnight’s time and two to follow in Aragon, Spain.
Results Round 10
Note: Individual race results for rounds 9-10 in parenthesis
1 , Ayumu Sasaki, JPN, 33:07.347, (3 – 1)
2, Enzo Boulom, FRA, at 3.304, (6 – 2)
3, Bo Bendsneyder, NED, 26.392, (1 – 3)
4, Rory Skinner, GBR, at 33.146, (10 – 4)
5, Oscar Gutierrez, ESP, at 41.103, (5 – 5)
Cup Championship Points after Round 10
1, Bendsneyder, 211
2, Fabio Di Giannantonio, ITA, 159
3, Gutierrez, 126
4, Boulom, 113
5, Sasaki, 112
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