Niklas Ajo: “I am working hard to take my first podium of the year”

22.07.2014

Niklas Ajo has taken a step forward this season with Husqvarna, albeit having suffered a fracture to his right ankle after a crash when battling for the podium.

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Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo rider, Niklas Ajo, continues to improve in the Moto3 World Championship. In his fourth full season in Grand Prix racing, the Finn has become one of the regular fixtures in the front group. Fifth and just 0.260s behind the winner in Italy, as well as eighth in Catalonia after battling for second until the final lap, he is seeing progress through hard work. A crash in the Netherlands, again when fighting for second place, left Ajo with an ankle injury that forced him to undergo surgery and miss Round 9 in Germany.

What mark would you give yourself for the first half of the season?
”I’d give myself an 8. Initially the results were not as good as we were hoping for, but after Argentina we began to get much more consistent and closer to the top positions. It is also true that we had some bad luck at some races.”

Did you expect to be up at the front by this stage of the season?
”Yes, I even expected a bit more of myself after the pre-season tests. At Qatar I was a little disappointed with how the weekend went. From that point we started working very hard to get back up there. The results began to come for us, although perhaps Austin was not too good for us because I had tyre problems. In Argentina we were making clear progress and we have continued like this, staying consistent in practice, in qualifying and in the races. We’re having a good year.”

At what stage of your recovery are you now?
”I have got a lot better over recent days. I am already able to walk without crutches. I have also started working my muscles by cycling. We must go step-by-step. My ankle is still swollen, but it’s healing well and there are no problems with competing.”

Are you afraid of not being at the same level when you come back?
”No, I’ll just try to work hard. The level now is very high, in a way that you know roughly where you will be every weekend. We can all have difficult races, like Jack Miller had at Barcelona. My last two or three races have been good, but we must be realistic, do our own job and see what happens.”

For you, which has been your best race?
”I think the Barcelona race. It was the first where we were really high up the order. We qualified fifth and were always close to the lead. That’s not forgetting the races at Assen and Mugello, where I also had good performances.”

And the worst?
”The worst, without a doubt, was the first race in Qatar. We fought and gave everything we had. We tried to change my riding style and the bike setup, and it was all a bit of a disaster. It was the first race weekend of the year and it was kind of strange, because we had a new team, with Erkki [Siuokola], Oscar [Reina] and new mechanics. However, thanks to this race we learned a lot for the rest of the season and that’s why we’ve improved so much.”

What are the strengths of the Husqvarna bike?
”The main advantage is that the engine of the KTM and Husqvarna is not the same as it was before. Our rivals have been very strong, especially in terms of the engine, but I think we have taken a step forward because last year he had some problems. The main improvement has been with the brakes. Now we can brake very hard and late.”

What do you expect from the rest of the season?
”I’m working hard to get my first podium of the year -that’s the main goal. We always try to do our best, every weekend. We’re close and we have a good chance of getting on the rostrum. Races are unpredictable, so there’s not much between finishing tenth and winning. We know that if we work hard enough, we will get our reward.”

What do you need to do to achieve this first podium?
”I think we have made our mark at the front over the last few races. Obviously, to win or be on the podium you have to be up there. But you just have to work hard and fight at every race, where you have to be aggressive. You have to have respect for others, but you also have to be daring if you are to get onto the podium. Normally there are many people in the front group, so we have to fight and also have a bit of luck -because everything counts and everything has to be perfect.”

Do you think the level is higher this year than last season?
”Yes, certainly this year it is much harder. Our bike is very similar to the bike that won the World Championship last year. We have improved the bike setup, and that has allowed us to be fastest in qualifying.”

Who will win the Word Championship?
”I’m going for Jack. He’s in great form and is very strong. He has a great opportunity ahead of him. The coming races will be hard and competitive and we will try to be up at the front, but I think the title is going to go to Jack.”

What will you do in the summer break, besides rehabbing your ankle?
”I’ll probably go out cycling and also ride a motorbike, because I need it. I will spend many days in the workshop trying things, and I will ride some Motocross and Supermotard with my friends. This is my way of relaxing. I’m anxious to get on the bike and that’s the next best thing. I will also work harder to arrive at Indianapolis in perfect shape.”