Avant Tecno KTM rider, satisfied with Moto3 season, believes he has grown as a rider.
Niklas Ajo this year completed his best season of the three contested so far in the World Championship. With a total of 62 points ─22 more than last year─ the Avant Tecno KTM rider finished in fourteenth position overall. Satisfied with his performances, the Finn highlights the high level of the competition and is happy to have learnt from a tough campaign.
In Valencia you finished your best season in the World Championship so far; how would you summarise your performance over the 17 races?
”I think, personally, that the season was pretty good. Although there was the injury with which I began the preseason, we improved a lot since the beginning of the year. Throughout this season the results have been up and down, with some good races and others less good, so we cannot be completely happy. Over the last few races we found a breakthrough, with which I have to continue next year.”
Have you fulfilled the expectations that you had in the month of March?
”Yes, I think so. I’m satisfied. It’s also true that maybe I was expecting a little more of myself, but I did not think that the season would be so hard and tight ─so I was very surprised. The level has risen over the year and things have been much tighter between the riders.”
In this tight and competitive Moto3 series, three riders have stood out. Do you think they were on another level?
”Yes. Luis [Salom], Maverick [Viñales] and Alex [Rins] were clearly faster than the rest. It was impossible to fight with them and only a few riders like Marquez and Folger were able to do so at some races. We other riders had our own championship, which was also very hard. Next season some of them will go up to Moto2, so it will be even more interesting.”
We’ve seen a different Niklas Ajo to previous seasons. What has changed? What have you learnt?
”I think from the first months onwards, I learnt a lot. Unfortunately I started the campaign in a different way to in previous years, because I could not go fast because of a knee injury. I had to be more careful and cautious. This helped me for the rest of the season, however. This year I was calmer and this helped me to reflect and think about everything I did. I believe that this was a very important step for me.”
And what would you have liked to change?
”Without a doubt, qualifying. I did not have good results in them and this is a very important thing to improve for next year. Like everything else, it’s a matter of working on it, and we will do that.”
Is that all you need to improve?
”No. For example, I think I should be more consistent when riding by myself, without following any other rider. It’s true that in recent races we have improved a bit, but we still have some way to go. This will also help us to improve our position in qualifying. ”
Instead, do you think you’ve become a specialist in comebacks?
”Maybe. If qualifying is my weak point, I think my strong point is comebacks. If I improve in the sessions on the Saturday and continue with these comebacks, then I’m sure next year will be even better.”
Of the 17 races, which one stands out?
”Valencia. I learnt a lot, both in terms of riding and the bike, so I think it was the best race ─although the result was not good. I believe that for the future this was the best race. We need to continue in the same way.”
And which was the worst?
”For me, it was definitely Brno. From the first day I was not comfortable on track and I could not find the good feeling I needed to try to be fast. At the next Grand Prix in the Czech Republic, we have to start completely differently.”
Results aside, is there any moment of this past season that you will never forget?
”The first corners at Indianapolis were incredible. I believe I went from twenty-fourth to eighth position in just three corners. It was spectacular for me; I don’t know how I did it but I found the space. Clearly I’ll never forget this ─I even laughed inside my helmet when I did it!”
Now that the season is over, what will you do during these months off?
”Keep training hard for the upcoming season. This never stops. I’ll spend some days at home in Finland and try to lose some weight. I’ll do some dirt track and supermoto, but this year I’ll be more careful! [laughs].”