With water still streaming across the track Brad Binder snatched pole position on the final lap of a dramatic qualifying for Saturday’s first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend in Estoril. The 15 year old South African is joined on the front row by 14 year old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri and 14 year old Portuguese Ivo Lopes.
The first qualifying session was halted after just a few minutes when a thunderstorm hit the circuit and a lightning bolt struck the track just 2 metres from 16 year old Austrian Deni Cudic. He crashed and was knocked unconscious. He regained consciousness but was taken to hospital in Lisbon for further checks. Just whether his loss of consciousness was caused by the lightning or the crash is unclear but riders close to him on the track were also affected. “I blacked out for a moment and then I was off the track,” explained 15 year old Australian Arthur Sissis. 17 year old Czech Tomas Vavrous had a similar experience. “I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was off the track. The onboard camera on the Australian’s bike was also knocked out by the lightning.
The torrential rain and loss of power to the track communications meant that the session could not continue even as the lightning moved away. The second qualifying session was then run over and hour later, still on a very wet track but with no real threat of further lightning.
There were still a large number of fallers but no injuries. German 13 year old Willi Albert headed the timing monitors for much of the session but then slid off in the chicane. “I got into the corner actually going too slowly and off line. The back slid round and I had a very small crash. Unfortunately the marshal who was helping with the bike wrecked the seat so that was the end of my session,” he explained, finally ending up with 6th place on the grid.
With the water clearing the pace got quicker and Sissis was the man on the move taking pole with 9 minutes to go. He went quicker and quicker until he overdid it with 2 of the 30 minutes remaining. “I felt good, by the end there was not too much water on the track, I knew it was pushing the limit. I got into one corner a bit too hot and the next one I fell.”
In those last 2 minutes he went from 1.3 sec faster than anyone to the second row of the grid as Baldassarri took pole with 30 seconds to go and Lopes pushed himself to 2nd. Binder had the answer though. “I was struggling early on, there was a lot of water running across the track and it was difficult. Towards the end it really improved and with about 2 laps to go I saw I was in about third so I thought it must be close and I should go for it. It just worked out and it’s great to be on pole again,” he concluded as he matched his Jerez performance.
Binder lies 4th in the points table after a win and a fall in Spain. Cup leader Philipp Oettl is missing this weekend as he recovers from a broken collarbone sustained in a practice crash on German Championship bike so Binder, Sissis and a number of other riders could well snatch the Cup lead from the 14 year old German.
Saturday’s race starts at 17.30 CET and can be seen live at www.redbull.com.
Combined Qualifying Classification
1. Brad Binder (RSA) 2 minutes 07.768 seconds
2. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) +0.316
3. Ivo Lopes (POR) +0.690
4. Arthur Sissis (AUS) +1.246
5. Joakim Niemi (FIN) +2.400
6. Willi Albert (GER) +2.561
7. Alan Techer (FRA) +3.441
8. James Flitcroft (GBR) +4.271
9. Josep Garcia (ESP) +4.502
10. Andrea Migno (ITA) +4.774
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