Zulfahmi Khairuddin is on his way home to rest up after a difficult season, in which he had to work hard and contend with injury in the final stages. Two sixth places in Qatar and Misano were his best results of the year, and the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider finished the 2013 Moto3 World Championship in twelfth overall, with 68 points. From next season he will begin a new stage of his sporting career, but before that he wishes to thank his team for all of their support over the past three years.
With that thirteenth place in Valencia, you finished a fourth season in the World Championship. How would you sum up 2013?
”The truth is that we expected to do better when the year began. Honestly, we never fully adapted my riding style to the new bike. We struggled, especially in the first few races of the year. In the final stages of the season we found the most suitable setup for me and began to understand the benefits that we could get from the bike. I was very happy with the progress we had made, the problem was that we had dropped many points by the time we reached that stage. Moreover, a few weeks later I crashed in Aragon. It has been a tough year.”
Did the crash at Aragon cut short your development and prevent a finish in the top six or seven places at the end of the season?
”Yes, I honestly think so. That is the main reason I could not finish the year in a better position. Crashing at Motorland Aragon left me with an injury that prevented me from doing well at several Grands Prix. It was not simply the hand injuries but also the strong blow to my back, which left me very sore for many weeks. The result of this bad luck was zero points at Aragon, not racing in Malaysia and riding with pain in Australia. Afterwards, in Japan, I crashed again. I’ve had a lot of bad luck this year.”
If we analyse your year, you seem to have performed better in the races on the Friday and Saturday. Do you have this feeling?
”Probably yes, this year, but it’s simply been because I almost always started from a low down on the grid so it is always easier to gain positions. The difficult thing is to be at the front and hold your position. Also, I have to say it has been the most competitive season that I’ve taken part in.”
Of the 16 races you rode in, which was the best?
”Without a doubt, Misano. After fighting and working hard all season, we finally found a good setup for the bike and that was shown at that Grand Prix. I started from fourth position on the grid, the best of the year, and was sixth in the race. There was a very positive progression from Misano to now, nothing like at the beginning of the year. So from that race we didn’t change too much with the bike —we focused on riding well and getting good results.”
And the worst?
”My home Grand Prix in Malaysia. Having worked very hard for two weeks and enduring the pain in practice, I could not ride on the Sunday in front of my home crowd due to injury and I was really sad about that. To be honest, I have not recovered 100% from the pain in my hands and from wrist surgery in early October. That was the main problem in the final stretch: Riding too many races in discomfort. Even so, I’m very happy with how the team worked for me to have the best bike possible at each of the races and I want to thank them. Also, I want to thank KTM and everyone else who was by my side, spurring me on to go faster.”
The race in Valencia was your final GP for Ajo Motorsport after three years. What is your final assessment of your time with this team?
”I want to thank the whole team, but especially Aki [Ajo], who has really helped me with my career since 2011. In 2012 we had a fantastic season and this year did not go as expected but, without him and without the rest of the Ajo Motorsport team, it would not have been possible to achieve what we have achieved during these three seasons. I’ll never forget these years together.”
Is the Red Bull KTM Ajo team different to the rest?
”I think so, everything is different, the bike, the crew people, even the garage! [Laughs]. Personally I think this team is number one. They have the best material, the best bike and the best mechanics.”
Now we have reached the end of the season, will you be going to Malaysia for a few days? What will you do over the coming months?
”Yes, as soon as possible I will be back home to rest. In late November we will have the first pre-season test to begin preparing the 2014 season. Next year I will go to a smaller team. I think it will do me good and we will try to get the best possible results together. Nevertheless, before the season starts I want to spend as much time as possible with my family.”