12 February 2016
Ajo: Manufacturers would enhance Moto2
“If we can get more manufacturers involved it would be better for everybody” – Aki Ajo.
Aki Ajo, whose team won the Moto2 title at its first attempt with Johann Zarco last season, would prefer the class to move away from a single engine supply.
The Finn also runs KTM's factory entry in Moto3 and believes the junior class rules offer a better compromise, since they allow multiple engine brands and therefore attract the involvement of motorcycle manufacturers.
“Comparing Moto2 and Moto3 rules, I personally like much more Moto3 because although the rules are very strict and many things are fixed, it is still open for any manufacturer to come in,” Ajo said.
“Of course there are also many positive things in Moto2, and after one year operating there I like it more than before, but if we can get more manufacturers involved - small and big - it would be better for everybody.
“Maybe some manufacturers would only want to be in Moto3, or in Moto2, others in all three categories. It is good for the business, for the championship and finally for everyone to have them involved.”
Moto2 has been a single-engine championship, using identical Honda CBR600 powerplants, since it replaced the 250cc two-stroke class in 2010. The present contract runs until the end of 2018 and, if the single engine format is to continue (as seems the intention), Ajo would like to see a more 'prototype' design.
“A 'racing' engine, more prototype, with more technology sounds interesting. But I understand Dorna have to be careful about controlling the costs because it's also important that the teams can find the budget.”
Indeed, whilst in favour of the Moto3 rules Ajo admits: “everybody said 125cc was too expensive, but I think Moto3 is now even more.”
But overall “I always think if something is working it is risky to change. Some points [of Moto3] could be better of course and maybe it is a bit too expensive, but I'm quite happy especially that there are manufacturers involved. I hope there will be more.”
Honda, KTM, Mahindra and Peugeot (a rebadged Mahindra) are entered in Moto3 this season.
After winning the inaugural Moto3 title with Sandro Cortese, Ajo's team has lost out on the title at the final round for the pasts three seasons. Most recently with Miguel Oliveira, who mounted a sterling comeback to keep the championship alive to Valencia.
Oliveira is moving to Moto2 this season, where he will join former title rival Danny Kent at the Leopard team.
Ajo admits he wanted to retain the Portuguese: “Oliveira was so strong last year and I like him a lot as a rider and a person. But he basically decided already, before he started with me, that it would be his last year in Moto3. So we knew in advance.
“Of course we tried to ask him to stay because the end of the year was so excellent. But he had decided to go to Moto2 and our Moto2 plan was to continue just with one rider this year and Zarco continued, so we couldn't give Miguel a chance. But you never know what will happen in the future.”
With Oliveira and Karel Hanika gone, Ajo will depend on Brad Binder for its 2016 championship challenge, while Rookies Cup winner Bo Bendsneyder learns the grand prix ropes.
“I see this, rookie rider and one championship rider, as a good combination,” Ajo said. “They can support each other very well. It's a different challenge for us; really focus for Brad to try and win the championship and at the same time a different working style for Bo, who has to catch Brad all the time. It's a good combination I feel.”
Binder took four podiums and sixth in the championship for Ajo last season, but is yet to win a race.
“We have to improve with him in practice, but he is a real race rider. One of the best I've seen. A real fighter. So I'm not worried. I am quite convinced he can fight for wins. But in Moto3 there are so many who can win. You never know in advance; new riders can step up and old riders can find speed. So I just keep my focus on Binder and Bendsneyder.
“The beginning of last year was difficult for us, but the bike was so good by the end of last year and we have not needed to change too much for this season.”
Ajo is also the personal manager for rising MotoGP stars Maverick Vinales and Jack Miller, both of whom he describes as having “incredible talent” although his only goal for them is to “improve” during their second premier-class season.
Ajo's teams could one day be racing in a home grand prix with Finland's Kymi Ring in talks for a place on the future grand prix calendar.
“I am not so much involved [with the project]. I hope they find a way to make the track, I think 2017 is not easy but I hope in the following years,” said Ajo.
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