Red Bull KTM Ajo shape up at Le Mans


Luis Salom starts the Grand Prix weekend third fastest in practice. Zulfahmi Khairuddin nineteenth on day one and Arthur Sissis twenty-fifth, after crashes.

The legendary Le Mans circuit today played host to the first day of the fourth round of the World Championship. The Red Bull KTM Ajo team started the weekend strong, with Luis Salom taking the third fastest time of the day. Zulfahmi Khairuddin was nineteenth quickest and Arthur Sissis twenty-fifth, as both suffered crashes in the second practice session. Whilst the tumbles did not result in injury, the duo’s planned workload was affected.

Raindrops just before the first practice session of the weekend had many expecting a day of wet practice sessions, as has been the case in recent years at this Grand Prix. Fortunately, heavy showers never arrived and the riders went out on a dry track –albeit cold at 8ºC and with 11ºC asphalt temperature. Arthur Sissis and Luis Salom headed the timesheets at various points in the session, with Salom eventually setting the fourth fastest time of 1:45.902. Zulfahmi Khairuddin was ninth with a 1:46.594 and Sissis nineteenth after clocking a 1:47.836.

The second session did not start well for the team, as first Zulfahmi Khairuddin and later Sissis suffered crashes on the early chicane. Nevertheless, both got back on track and improved their times, as did teammate Salom. The Spanish rider for the Red Bull KTM Ajo team managed to breach the 1:45 barrier and place third in the combined timesheets. A brief shower with seven minutes remaining meant that the day was draw to an early conclusion.

Action at Le Mans continues tomorrow, with the final free practice session and qualifying.

Results (Combined practice time FP1-FP2)
1. Alex Rins (KTM) 1:44.147
2. Jonas Folger (Kalex KTM) 1:44.153 +0.006
3. Luis Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 1:44.678 +0.531
4. Maverick Viñales (KTM) 1:44.823 +0.676
5. Danny Webb (Suter Honda) 1:45.073 +0.926
19. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 1:46.264 +2.117
25. Arthur Sissis (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 1:46.967 +2.820

Luis Salom >> Audio
“Overall, this first day of practice at Le Mans went well. I’m happy with the work we are doing as a team. Little-by-little, lap-by-lap, we are improving. Above all, we can keep calm because the weekend is very long and the weather can change at any time, as happened today. We have started very well, and I just hope that the weather is good for us tomorrow.”

Arthur Sissis >> Audio
“Today was a difficult day, the first session was not the best we’ve had so far this season and we made some changes to the bike for the second run. I felt very comfortable with the adjustments and I got a good time on some really worn tyres.
Then, on the second time out of the garage, we made some changes. After leaving pitlane I crashed at the first chicane. It wasn’t a big fall and I could go back out, but then it started to rain. We’ve had some bad luck, but the feeling with the bike is good so we’re on the right track.”

Zulfahmi Khairuddin >> Audio (English) // Audio (Malaysian)
“The morning did not go badly at all. In the second session we tested new configurations with the bike, focusing on the rear shock, to see which path we had to follow. Later I suffered a crash on Turn 4, but I was lucky and escaped unscathed. I was able to ride again and was pushing to improve my time when it started to rain. Let’s see if it is good weather tomorrow; if it rains, I have to give everything to take the best grid position possible. I feel comfortable with the bike, so tomorrow I hope to place in the top ten —at least.”

*Audio solely for radio use