“I would like to be a reference for future French riders”31/10/2016
The Ajo Motorsport rider discusses his 2016 season after retaining the Moto2 World Championship yesterday in Malaysia.
Johann Zarco will leave the Moto2 class after the Valencian Grand Prix, but will do so having written motorcycle racing history. With a second consecutive Moto2 World Championship achieved yesterday with victory at Sepang, the Ajo Motorsport rider becomes the first double Moto2 titlist and the first Frenchman to have two world titles on his resume.
How does it feel to be Moto2 World champion again?
“Yesterday was a very exciting day. I did not want to cry but it was impossible. To finish my time in the class and with Ajo Motorsport in this way is magnificent. It was the goal for the season; it has not been easy, but we did it!”
It was a very difficult weekend, wasn’t it?
“It was made more complicated by the weather conditions, but the truth is that I felt comfortable in both dry and wet conditions. Maybe I was not leading the timesheets in every session, but my pace was good in both conditions. I had to seize the opportunity.”
How did you feel on those decisive 19 laps at the Sepang International Circuit?
“The truth is that at first I think we were all a little scared. The track was very wet and we were slipping a lot. I made some mistakes and I was on the brink of crashing. Fortunately, starting from pole position was a great help, because in those conditions the risks at the first corner are even greater. However, as the laps went by and as the asphalt dried out, I felt better. The conditions were ideal for me and where I got the biggest advantage over my rivals. I was able to enjoy the last straight by lifting the front wheel and celebrating.”
Did you know all the combinations that made you mathematically World Champion? Did you not risk a lot, knowing that Luthi and Rins were far back?
“I knew that being on the podium ahead of Thomas [Luthi] and Alex [Rins] I would be champion. In the early stages of the race, I was riding behind Franco [Morbidelli] and did not have the best feeling, but could follow him; in fact I was worried that Folger would overtake me. A dry line began to emerge and from there I began to see that my time had come. The conditions were similar to in Saturday’s qualifying session. I knew I could take advantage and pushed. I did not want to stay among those two or at the end of the group, because a mistake by one of them could become a scare for me. I chose to find my pace and follow my line.”
What is the key to making so much of a difference in mixed track conditions and with wet tyres?
“I am a rider who takes a lot of care of my tyres, my style is quite fine and this helps me both at the end of races and in these specific conditions with wet tyres.”
Did you feel the pressure of having to win the title?
“Yes, it seems to be an obligation. In fact I expected that after competing last year with Tito [Rabat]. That was why I wanted to continue with the number 5 on the fairing; for me it was important to keep my feet on the ground. Anyway, I woke up every day thinking I had to win the title.”
Which title was most difficult to win?
“They always say that retaining the title is more difficult. Maybe it is, especially the mental burden, but we’ve worked very hard over the past two years. This year there was a larger group of riders who have fought for the top positions: Luthi, Rins, Lowes, Morbidelli, Nakagami etc. Also, I have not been so consistent and I have made mistakes. Last year I always had an important cushion in the overall standings, which helped me, but for me it was the result of many years of previous work.”
You say that this year you have not been so consistent. Why is this?
“This year I started in Qatar as the reigning champion and had to repeat. In addition, this season there was a group of very strong riders in the top positions of the races. Not only those who fought to the end for the title. There was a large group of riders who race after race made things more difficult. If one day you were not at one hundred percent, you could lose 7 or 8 positions easily. In some races, we have had to aim to salvage points. Always riding on the limit has been very hard physically and mentally.”
Which win is the most special you have accomplished so far?
“I never like to choose a particular race. Getting a win is always important; it is the result of a great work of the whole team. Each has something special about it and I could not say just one.”
You are the Frenchman with the most wins in history and now you the only one to have two World Championships.
What does it mean to you?
“It’s a source of pride. I hope that with this second title the fanbase in France increases and the passion for this sport continues to grow. Last year I noticed a change, but I hope that now there is another step forward.
We all want the passion for motorcycles to grow, for more people to watch the races on television. That’s why I have a riding school with Laurent [Fellon], where I spend a lot of time between races. I would like the idol of future French riders to be me. I hope this second World Championship helps.”
What role has the Ajo Motorsport and Aki Ajo in these two years of success?
“They have been very important. We could say that they are my “motorcycle family.” We have spent two very intense seasons together during race weekends, 24 hours a day. This is very important and I personally give a lot of value to it. Finding the time to disconnect with them, for example by playing with a football at the end of the day or spending hours in the truck or in the box, makes when you feel at home when you pull on the leathers.
Aki [Ajo] has managed to put together a group of people with an excellent atmosphere. Every little thing is controlled and each person plays their role perfectly. This order is what makes you win. This year we have achieved it in both Moto2 and Moto3! I wish them well in the future.”
How do you see yourself doing in MotoGP?
“I am very happy to have stayed one more year in Moto2 and to move up with two titles under my belt. I think the experience I have acquired this year, about my riding style and how to set up the new Kalex, will serve me well in MotoGP. I’ll move up with a very good bike and a team with which I think we can do a good job.”