The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup heads towards Assen and the mid point of the 15 race season next weekend as part of the Dutch TT on June 29th and 30th. Races 7 and 8 are bound to feature the usual intense battles that have seen the points advantage change hands every weekend so far this year. Heading for the Netherlands it is 16 year old German Philipp Oettl who has a 2 point lead over Scott Deroue as they prepare for the 16 year old Dutchman's home race.
Both men are in perfect form, Oettl coming off a 4th and a 1st at Silverstone and Deroue a 5th and a 2nd following his double victory in Portugal. Even with those results they only have a scant advantage over Florian Alt who scored a 1st and a 4th in Britain and is just 6 points adrift of Oettl.
Those three have a bit of a lead over Kyle Ryde in 4th place but the 14 year old Briton is also in great form and really should win at least one race before the season gets much older. He travels to Assen direct from victory in the British Championship round at Knockhill in Scotland where he was chased home by fellow Rookie Tarran Mackenzie, now fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the early races. At Silverstone Ryde was in the hunt for victory in both races eventually scoring a 3rd and an 8th
Just in front of Ryde in Race 1 at the British Grand Prix was Bradley Ray and the 15 year old Briton is also on top form though only 8th in the points chase after some early season errors. Just ahead of Ray in the points is reigning Cup Champion Lorenzo Baldassarri and the 15 year old Italian has struggled to find the results this year though his victory in race 2 at Jerez is proof that he can still do it. Baldassarri and Oettl are both swapping between the 2-stroke KTMs and the 4-strokes they use in other race series but the Italian seems to suffer more.
5th and 6th in the title chase are Ivo Lopes, the 15 year old Portuguese and 16 year old Czech Karel Hanika. Both have been regular front runners this year and Hanika has been 3rd 3 times. At Assen he will for the 1st time be racing on a track he has seen before but lack of track knowledge has not hindered him to date and he was on pole at Silverstone.
Both Hanika and Lopes are taller than many of the other Rookies and staying ahead of the pack is not easy for them but the layout at Assen, with the main straight a long way from the finish line, may help them get across the line first.
All in all it is typically impossible to predict the winners for Assen. We may well have to look beyond the existing Cup leaderboard and think of a new winner, 13 year old Italian Stefano Manzi and 15 year old South African Jordan Weaving both led the race in Silverstone and are obvious candidates.
With its traditional early start practice at Assen gets underway on Thursday with Race 1 at 16.30 CET on Friday June 29th and Race 2 at 15.30 CET on Sunday. Both races can be seen live on www.redbull.tv and on TV stations around the world.