“I have to make the most of this opportunity, because I have a winning bike”22/02/2013
After three consecutive weeks of testing in Almeria, Valencia and Jerez, Luis Salom assesses the work performed up to now with the new 2013 KTM. The Spanish rider is satisfied with the path taken with his new team, Red Bull KTM Ajo, and is excited about the new Moto3 season which starts in little over a month’s time.
After two months without riding, how have you enjoyed these three weeks of testing?
“I was very excited. After the test last November in Albacete, in which I felt very good with the team and the bike, I was keen to try the 2013 KTM and had no problem getting back on the pace. I ended the tests last year very happy, and this year we began to work with the new bike on finding the best setup. The team have showed me how one has to work and do things. I am learning a lot with them, but there is still a way to go. I am very happy.”
Have they made many changes from the bike that you tried out at the end of last year?
“The new bike is different. We have always been going the right way with it, because the bike has worked well all the time and we have been fast. Now we have to continue working and find the best path to follow. The team’s way of working and what they are showing me are very important for 2013.”
What did you do during the winter break?
“More than holidays, they were weeks of slowing down a little and doing some fitness training to try and fix injuries from previous years –like my shoulder and my wrist that I injured in 2011. There was time for everything.”
What have been your first impressions of your new team?
“The way of working and facing each test has changed. The bike doesn’t set itself up. You have to do that between the team and the rider. In this process you have to be calm, because things end up working when you do. In previous seasons I had never been a rider who shone riding by myself. I clocked good times off a tow, but I was mid-pack or beyond without that. In the races that I won last season I was never a favourite to win off the grid. The tests this year have been more fruitful. I am riding against myself. In the test at Valencia and in this one at Jerez I was just two tenths of a second off the best time, which is nothing. I am learning a lot and I am very happy with the tests that I have had –and also the job that we’ve done with the team.”
What is your new team manager, Aki Ajo, like?
“Aki has surprised me a lot. He is a very knowledgeable technician and a team manager at the same time. He helps me to calm down, because I am a rider who easily hits the throttle. I’m not relaxed or cold blooded at all. So it’s difficult. But Aki is helping me in this respect and things are working well.”
What are the main strengths of this development of the title-winning bike? What are the big differences?
“They are all strong points. The bike has a good chassis, a good engine and goes well in all aspects. The Kalex-KTM from last year was different, but also worked well.”
There are 8 factory KTM bikes this year. Will the season be more competitive than last year?
“A lot more. Before, the Red Bull KTM Ajo was the only KTM, and now it’s not like that. There will be teams with a KTM exactly the same as ours. This is good, because it will increase the competitiveness and will work out better for the fans at the circuits and on TV. This is what matters and it is good that a group of ten riders can fight for the win. But we can’t forget that there are other bikes that will be up there too.”
A Finnish team, German telemetrist, Spanish and Italian mechanics and Malaysian and Australian teammates. What is it like to be surrounded by so many different nationalities?
“I think it’s better. It allows you to speak different languages constantly, whether they be Spanish, Italian or English. It works well for loosening up in front of the foreign TV channels when they want to interview you.”
Do you see a group of favourites for the title this year?
“You can’t pick a favourite, because there are still riders to come who will be up there –either from the first race or the middle of the season. What we have to do is be calm and work hard. When you think that you’ve finished, it’s time to keep working.”
You were runner-up last season. What is needed this year for you to take the next step up?
“Many things, because each year is different. Riders change teams, there are new rivals, young riders now have a year’s experience behind them… I think that I can finish anywhere in the top ten. It depends on how I do, but if I develop alongside my team and we continue working, then we can do well. To win the title, everything has to go very well for you and you also need a little luck, because injuries and little problems with the bike are always possible. A lot can go wrong, so what I have to do is take it race-by-race, work hard and try to make the most of this opportunity, because it is the first time that I have had a winning bike.”
Does that increase the pressure?
“I don’t feel pressure. I am relaxed at the moment and that is how I will be for the rest of the season. I am going to go race-by-race, which is the important thing, and try to get the best working relationship with the team.”
Why number 39?
“I picked that number in a draw in 2005. It was a Saturday and I won the race on the Sunday –my first victory outside the Balearic Championship. After that, I’ve won more races, so the number has stuck.”
After three weeks travelling with the team, what plan do you have for the coming weeks?
“In these three weeks I will rest a little after these tests. I will also train in order to be in the best shape possible for the final test and ready for Qatar, because there will be hardly any time to train between the two.”
Has Aki challenged you to an ice race yet?
“He’s mentioned it and I know that he was a champion in that discipline, so it’s best that I don’t race him because he would demolish me! I would like to try it out, because it must be fun.”
Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals that you do before you go out on track?
“Yes, I am superstitious and have a few of them.”
Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins, Maverick Viñales, you… what is it about Spaniards and riding?
“There are many Spanish riders who are fast. I don’t know what it is, but I know that this isn’t a frequent occurrence in life. Having so many Spaniards fighting to win titles isn’t normal, because there are always only one or two Spanish riders who are title contenders in each class.”
A wish for 2013…
“That everything goes smoothly and that nothing strange happens: No injuries, no mechanical problems… I want to be able to make my way through calmly and be able to have a good season.”