Two dozen young riders enjoyed the sun of southern Spain as the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies test of 2008 took place at Jerez, with Britain's Matthew Hoyle coming out on top over 25-26 February.

Starting its second year, the Cup series retains ten riders from last year, and adds 14 new teenagers to create a truly global event, with competitors coming from as far afield as South Africa, Australia, America and Japan as well as across Europe. For many, the test was a return to the track for the first time for months, but all were thrilled to be back in action. Hoyle emerged fastest, ahead of Spaniards Luis Salom and Cristian Trabalon, with Sturla Fagerhaug of Norway posting the fourth best time.

For the old hands like 16-year old Hoyle, there was nothing new about the circuit or the bike, but he still admitted to being happy at getting back on track having finished third in the Cup standings last season and returning as the highest-placed finisher from 2007.

"It is just great to be riding again, I have been waiting all winter for this," he smiled, his mood buoyed further by his front-running pace.

Salom proved that he will be another of the second-year riders worth watching, last year's Assen winner also admitting that it had been a long winter.

"At home in Mallorca, there is just nowhere to ride," the 16-year old revealed, "It was so great to be back on the bike again and I just felt right at home immediately. I wasn't pushing it, just relaxed, it felt great from the start."

Fellow countryman Trabalon also returns to the series for a second year, and will look to bounce back from an injury which ruined the end of last season.

"I started the off-season with my right arm in plaster for about a month after I broke my wrist testing in Valencia after the GP last year," the 15-year old said, "I just had a bit of a go on a supermotard bike in the off-season, so it was great to be back on the KTM again."

Fagerhaug, meanwhile, admitted that he still has some way to go before he is in full race shape for the season proper.

"I need to do some training and get more strength in my arms," the Norwegian revealed, "I guess it is the time off the bike during the winter and I'm going to work on that. Otherwise, it all went well, it was great to be back on the bike."

Second year American JD Beach admitted that he was delighted to have found time over the winter, having started 2007 as a complete road racing novice after making the switch from dirt track racing.

"It's great, I'm about three seconds faster than I was last year, and I'm running with Matt [Hoyle] and Deane [Brown] - I couldn't do that last year," he grinned.

Quickest of the newcomers was Mathew Scholtz, who shrugged off a high-speed fall on the first day to be fifth fastest overall.

"I really enjoyed that last session, and I'm feeling a lot better now," he said, "My favourite bit of the track is the last fast left hander... the place where I crashed yesterday. I made a mistake, I was too fast, but now I have a much better line and I am quicker - and not crashing."

For some of the newcomers, however, the combination of a 125cc grand prix machine and the Jerez circuit came as a bit of a shock.

"It's the fast corners, they are really new to me," admitted 12-year old Alessio Cappella, the Nigerian-Italian nicknamed 'Black Arrow' who will only be able to start racing at the Mugello round once he turns 13, "It is a lovely bike and a lot of fun but, when the tyres get worn though, wow, you have to watch out."

Fellow newcomer Kevin Calia, a 13 year old from Imola, said that he had the same reaction.

"Sure, it is the fast corners that are new for us, really something to learn," he confirmed, "But the bike and the track are great and I am having a lot of fun. I know I need to do some more work on setting up the front suspension, then I will be happier."

Finn Niklas Ajo, another newcomer, had a positive reaction to the fast corners, claiming them to be the 'best part of the track'

"They are so much fun," the 13-year old insisted after making his Jerez debut, "I am also enjoying the KTM, the feeling is quite similar to the RS125 I have ridden so it is not too difficult to get used to and I am very happy with everything."

Some of the newcomers had tried a 125 before but joining the Rookies Cup still means new experiences. For 14-year old Czech Jakub Kornfeil, it was interesting to compare the KTM with the RS125 he has ridden before.

"I am really enjoying the KTM, it is much nicer to ride, the handling is better and I am having a lot of fun," he explained, "It is a great track and I don't think I am having any real problems, just learning."

Of the two Japanese newcomers,14-year old Sasuke Shinozaki settled in quickest, but Daijiro Hiura left a little frustrated by a couple of bike problems and not going as fast as he wanted to be.

"I think I expected a lot of myself here and it just has not worked out the way I wanted," the 13-year old who had shocked everyone with his speed as a wild card rider at the Valencia Rookies Cup race at the end of the 2007 sighed, "I really wanted to do well and I tried very hard."

Daniel Kartheininger was one of the early fallers on the first day, suffering a spectacular highside that also brought down Kornfeil and Adam Blacklock, as well as a twisted ankle that put a dent in his performance for the rest of the test.

After a day's break, the circus moves to Valencia for a further two days of testing over 28-29 February, with a two-day test at Estoril scheduled for 22-23 before the Cup season starts alongside the Spanish MotoGP round at Jerez on 29-30 March.