“I am learning and I have to enjoy every lap that I am at the front”

29/07/2014

Red Bull KTM Ajo rookie wants to improve results in second half of season and finish races as part of lead group.

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The Moto3 class is characterised by its equality and the large number of riders fighting for the win at each race. It is a difficult season for the more experienced riders, but even more so for a rookie like Karel Hanika, who in his first year has been making cameo appearances in the lead group. With 16 points on the board in the overall standings, DNFs at Assen and Sachsenring have sent him into the summer break keen to turn spells at the front into results. The Czech Red Bull KTM Ajo rider hopes to continue learning in the second half of the season and finish his good work with placings in the Top 5.

We have reached the middle of the season, what mark would you give yourself?
“I’ll have to have a think about it, because there have been some races that have gone well and others that have not gone as we had wanted. I would give myself a 5 -halfway. I’ve made mistakes in some races and that has got me down, but I’m very proud of other races.”

Did you expect to be in this position at the start of the World Championship?
“It is difficult to look at it like that, because we have not taken many points but we’ve been fighting for points almost all the time, I would say. Maybe it’s down to bad luck that we have not taken more. Still, we know we can score points at every Grand Prix and that’s good. No matter what position we are in the World Championship, that is not what we are focusing on this year. We are here to keep learning, and I think we are doing well with the team.”

Before the season started, you had the Rookie of the Year honour as a good target for this first season. Are you still thinking about it like that?
“It’s tough, because we have lost many points and now there is a big gap, but there is still half the season to go and I think we can have some good races. I’ll try to do my best to be Rookie of the Year.”

This is your first year in the World Championship. What has surprised you the most?
“The level of competition, without a doubt. At many circuits we’ve lapped faster than last year. I have noticed this in qualifying, for example. The level is even higher than last season, for sure, since many riders can win races or place in the Top 5. It is very hard and I have been rather surprised. But it is what it is, we have to be one of those riders who fights to be up at the front.”

In what ways has Karel Hanika changed from the rider who took part in the Red Bull Rookies Cup?
“In many ways, of course. I had to change my style a little, work with the mechanics, learn new tracks –everything that you have to do to be competitive in Moto3. Last year was different. I had no trouble being up at the front and felt no pressure. But in the World Championship the entire grid is very fast, I have to put pressure on myself and give my best always. Sometimes I go too close to the limit and so I make mistakes, which end up with me not finishing the race. I’m learning and I have to enjoy every lap when I’m at the front.”

“My goal is to be World Champion one day, and that’s why I work hard every day to be at the front”

Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself?
“Yes, of course, much more than anyone else puts on me. Much more than the team, for example, because my goal is to be World Champion one day and that is why I want to keep working every day. I know that the future could be bright. Putting pressure on oneself is normal, but sometimes I do it too much.”

Why did you have to change your riding style, considering that the bike is very similar to last year’s machine?
“I had to change because in the Red Bull Rookies Cup I did not have date, both in terms of times and telemetry, that we have here. For example, I can now see where I can go faster and where I can go slower. Here we know everything, especially where I can improve. My style has changed because each corner can be analysed and we can decide which is the best way to take it. I had to change the way I move my body on the bike and how I use the clutch, because it has changed a little from last year and has been where we have struggled a bit this season. In the end, they are very small changes but together they make a significant leap. You can’t relax at any time because, as I said, the level is much higher here and any mistake can cost you a lot of places.”

A new bike, a new crew chief, new staff… how are you finding your first year in the Red Bull KTM Ajo team?
“I’m very happy. I have a great group of people around me. I am happy that we have five riders in the structure; that helps a lot. I get along great with the mechanics and with Jordi [Gallardo], my crew chief, I’m learning every day. The relationship with Aki Ajo is excellent and he is always there helping. The truth is that we are a great team.”

With a title contender as teammte, are you learning a lot from Jack [Miller]?
“Yes, of course. We can get a lot of data from him and take advantage of it. When he is in front of me, we can find where we are losing time. He personally is helping me a lot as well, because in the past I never had this opportunity and he has plenty of experience -and is now fighting for the title in Moto3. Of course I learn a lot by his side.”

With the move to the Moto3 World Championship, do you feel you get more support from the Czech Republic?
“From the fans, yes, very much. They give  sensational support. I’m Very happy. Maybe they expected more from me, but people also understand that you cannot move up to the World Championship and be up at the front always. I have a great fanbase, which always supports both me and Jakub [Kornfeil].”

What has been your best race this season?
“Although it may seem strange, I think my best race was at Assen. I was very competitive. I rode for a long time in second place and I think I could have finished in the Top 5, but I made a rookie mistake. I am more happy about that race than the tenth place in Texas or at Mugello, for example.”

And the worst race?
“I would say Argentina. I made a big mistake on the fourth corner and crashed. It was a stupid crash. It’s a race where I think we could have done very well, so it was a shame. Luckily I did not get hurt.”

“I hope Jack wins the world title; I will try to help him as much as I can with my results, within the rules!”

What do you expect from the second half of the season? Are you worried or concerned about the flyaways?
“We will need to work hard, of course, and learn many tracks from scratch. I’m not worried. We are the same riders and I know how hard the races are now. I have more experience than earlier in the season and that’s good, because I think I will have better races. We must continue to improve and get good results.”

Is there a race that you are looking forward to most?
“I’m looking forward to my home Grand Prix. I don’t know how the race will go, but it’s the Brno circuit and I’ll be happy to ride there in the World Championship. I hope we have a good weekend there, get a good position on the grid and have a good race. Misano and Aragon are also familiar tracks from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, but the one I am most excited about is Brno.”

What do you have to improve for the second half of the season?
“Many things. Working at the limit, for example, to solve the problems we have had in the first half of the championship. We need more confidence too, and to try to work the same way we did at Assen -our best weekend to date. We just need one race up at the front and to keep calm. I know we have the speed and pace to be in the front group at every race.”

What goals do you have for the remainder of the year?
“Being in the Top 5 would be a great achievement. I shouldn’t be too optimistic, as it is not easy when there is a high level of competition, but even with a result in the Top 10 I would be very pleased. The goal is to always feature in the front group, or to stay there for as many laps as possible.”

Who will win the World Championship?
“I hope Jack [Miller]. I believe he deserves it, because he is doing a great job. He always tries to win and is never content with being second. I’m a bit like that. I will try to help him as much as I can with my results, within the rules! [laughs]”

What are you doing on your summer holidays?
“I’ve spent a few days in Spain. I am training and trying to be as ready as possible for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. I’ll try to see my family and spend a few days relaxing, take the opportunity to go out a bit, since I can never do that. Maybe I’ll go camping with some friends and try to do a bit of motocross, which I really like. Luckily I don’t have to go to school again until October [laughs]. It’ll be my last year!”

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