Luis Salom has had a year full of good results, with a total of 12 podiums from 17 races. He was the rider with the most wins, victorious on 7 occasions: Qatar, Italy, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Great Britain and Malaysia. He also took two second places –Jerez and Germany– and three third places –Austin, France and Australia. He led the Moto3 classification from the Catalan GP, reaching the final round with a lead of 2 points over second place. A crash in Valencia left him out of the running to win the title.
Last Sunday an excellent season ended –your last in the lower cylinder category. How would you sum up this year with the Red Bull KTM Ajo team?
”It’s been a very nice, very special year. I want to thank my team because this has been the best year of my life, I have learned a lot. The team has given everything to me and I have done likewise. It’s a shame to have finished the season with two zeros, but we have won more races than anyone else –seven– and this is very important to me. It’s been a great year, so I would also like to thank everyone who has supported me and all the people who have been by my side.”
What role has the team played in the championship this year?
”They were key. I knew this year was going to be very hard, because everyone was competing with the same material and also Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales had very good teams. Red Bull KTM Ajo have given everything for me. I’ve learned a lot this year, I can never forget it. During the whole season they have been like this, but I would like to highlight the work they did after Japan –it was amazing. Everything I’ve enjoyed this year, I owe it to them; they are very special to me. I would have liked to have dedicated a good last race to them, but it wasn’t to be.”
Since starting the preseason in Almeria with a new team for you, what sticks in your mind?
”The truth is that I will always remember the race in Qatar. I don’t know why, but it was a spectacular start, very special and nice for me. I got pole position and the first victory of the year. I couldn’t have started better and it was the beginning of a great year.”
Was the first race of the year your best performance of the entire season?
”Probably yes, along with the Catalan Grand Prix. That was also unique because I took another double –pole and victory– at home, in front of my fans and with the stands filled with Spanish fans. It was an almost perfect weekend.”
On the other hand, I suppose that these last two races have been the worst of the season…
”Yes, it is clear that Japan and Valencia were the worst races of the season, but the worst was Japan, by far. It was tough, because we were leading much of the season from Catalonia onwards –and we won more races than anyone else. Despite running with a broken heel, my worst results were fifth and two fourths before that. Japan and Valencia ended the championship.”
What did you think when, just as the racing resumed, you suffered the crash in Indianapolis?
”Without a doubt it was the most difficult situation to manage. First the fall in Indianapolis, where we salvaged a fifth place and took two straight wins, but after the practice crash at Misano things worsened. The rest of the season was very good.”
Besides the wins, is there any overtake, anecdote or celebration you will never forget?
”Yes, overtaking at Silverstone. I still don’t know how I did it. I went from fourth place to first on a single corner. It was awesome, I think it’s the best move I’ve ever done.”
One of your strengths this year, which has made a difference, has been on the final laps. Were you convinced that you would always take the win?
”No, you do not think that. When that time comes you focus on your work, concentrate and give everything. Then you see the end result.”
Who has made things the most difficult for you on track?
”It’s been an incredible season, the most competitive I’ve seen in my life. Both Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales had an excellent season. They deserved the title the same as I did. I would also like to thank Maverick and Alex, because I have grown a lot as a rider. However, they weren’t the only ones to have made things difficult on track. Alex Marquez, Jonas Folger, Miguel Oliveira and other riders throughout the year have been up there too.”
And what about the KTM Moto3 bike, which has won every race on the calendar?
”The bike always worked very well and we never had problems with it. I believe that there are only strengths with that bike. If I had to highlight an aspect, it would be the KTM engine –it is very fast. Possibly this is what made the most difference.”
Next season you face a new challenge in your career, with the leap to Moto2. What will you miss about the lower cylinder class?
”Both 125cc and Moto3 are two categories that teach you a lot. Next year is going to be completely new to me, with a new team, bike and class. I’ve never tried a Moto2 bike, nor even sat on one!”
And what will you get up to now?
”Firstly, a couple of weeks of testing to start preparing for next season. Then I’ll have a few weeks to relax, unwind and come back stronger. I’m sure it will be good for us.”