Interview with Aki Ajo: “We try our best to win; this is why we race”22/07/2019
Aki Ajo analyses progress of Ajo MotoE Team and Niki Tuuli, after their debut brought victory in first MotoE™ race in history.
The eagerly awaited start of the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup saw the Ajo MotoE Team, together with Niki Tuuli, secure E-Pole and victory in a competitive and exciting opening event held at the German Grand Prix. The first MotoE™ race in history could not have been better for Aki Ajo’s team, who have been working intensely right from the beginning of the very first test session for the forward-looking series, back in November.
When and how did you decide to create a team for the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup?
“We were approached by Dorna and IRTA about the new series, and we jumped at the chance to be among the first ones to race in this new and thrilling competition, so after the initial talks the decision was made quite fast. We are really happy and excited to be part of this new championship.”
What difficulties have you encountered in the technical development of the MotoE bike?
“The bikes are quite ready for the high-level competition as we could see from the first race in Sachsenring already. Mostly I think we have encountered only the normal set-up things – learning how the bike works and how to best use it with our rider – so quite the standard racing stuff, actually.”
The MotoE bikes require different maintenance procedures than conventional bikes. How is the equipment being prepped for racing?
“From our perspective the basic work is actually quite normal racing work: we keep the bikes in good condition, check mechanical details and so on, besides preparing the set-up, while the bike manufacturer and series organiser make sure that we have the bikes ready for each event. So our main duties include quite normal preparations, as well as thinking about the set-up range to be used and so forth.”
In a championship which is so evenly regulated and technically matched, how can you make a difference competitively?
“For us working with riders has always been important, and this series especially highlights that part of the job. The machines are evenly matched and the staff is limited, so we emphasise highly on working with the rider to assist him in performing well in all the areas, and then we use the set-up to help him achieve his best potential level.”
How do you select a rider for a brand new championship? What relevant qualities did you see in Niki Tuuli?
“I think the same basic qualities apply in a new championship as well. Niki has a positive working attitude, he has a good feel for the bike and how the machine reacts to his input. Furthermore, he is a strong match with our team, so we can help each other to find the best performance from the rider and the bike. Niki is also someone who listens and is willing to take feedback and develop, which is very important, especially in a new championship.”
At Sachsenring Ajo MotoE competed in the first round of the championship. How did the team approach the weekend and what challenges did you face?
“The first-ever race started in sort of mixed track conditions, so I think this was the main challenge, but other than that things went really well. We did our homework, so we thought that we should be quite ready. From the tests we had an idea on how to begin the weekend. Afterwards, really you need to work from there, with the conditions that are coming up along the way, at any given weekend. However, if you are prepared and you have some clues on how to work in different conditions, this helps of course.”
Did you expect to see such a close race with so much overtaking?
“I thought there would be some close racing, as the bikes are similar and the series has really strong and experienced riders, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. Still, maybe the intensity of the racing was a revelation, so it was an exciting race for sure!”
All the hard work on this new project paid off in Germany, where Niki Tuuli got the E-Pole and the first victory in the championship. How do you assess his progress since he joined the team?
“Niki has worked really hard: he has been happy to learn new things and listen to our staff to get more information. He was already fast in the tests, but I see he has developed especially in understanding the bike. He not only listens to the team but he also listens to the bike, which is what he needs to go fast.”
In the first race the team set a high bar. How will you approach the rest of the season? What are the objectives of the team?
“It is the first season of the new series, and we are learning all the time. Clearly we aim to be as high as possible, and try our best to win – this is why we race of course. I think that the most important point is that we remember that anything can happen and the other teams with their riders are also doing a great job, so we need to keep working at our best level, and then in the end I hope we get the reward for that.”