Methodical, fun and with clear ideas. Aki Ajo, a Finn who landed in the MotoGP World Championship in 2002, is the conductor of the team that, with Marc Márquez as the soloist, has become the bench mark in the 125cc World Championship.
Ten-time Finnish ice racing champion, he set up his own team and in 2002, he landed in the Continental Circus with a rough diamond called Mika Kallio, who went on to become runner-up two years in a row.
In the 2008 season, he took the French rider Mike Di Meglio to the world title and that season, the paths of this extrovert Finn crossed with those of Repsol rider Marc Márquez.
Why did you sign Marc Márquez? What did you see in him?
“It wasn’t a difficult choice. I’ve followed his career for many years and I think that he’s one of the most promising talents in the world, which in my opinion, has been proved by the results this season”.
Before that, when was the first time you noticed him?
“The first time I saw him was during the 2007 season, when he was competing in the CEV (Spanish Speed Championship) and looking back, I now remember that I thought that with this young rider, I could go far. After all, it has been our denomination of origin for years, finding new talent and raising it until it reaches the full maturity of its potential”.
After working with riders like Mika Kallio or Mike Di Meglio, do you think that they have something in common?
“The three riders are in the elite of world championship riders at the moment, but obviously, they are different people, each with their own qualities. Of course, they also have points in common, such as their huge capacity of concentration and the desire to win”.
On the first day of work with him, what did you think of him? Which qualities would you highlight?
“Impressive! That was my first thought. I noticed that the qualities that I had already seen from outside were his strongest points, but also, that he is really very, very professional, calm and with an incredible capacity to concentrate. Marc is a real team player, with a great desire to win, but also to continue learning new things every day”.
Where have you had to correct him or restrain him most?
“Firstly, it must be said that he is a true professional, despite only being 17 years old. Obviously, there are still points that must be developed and working so closely in the team, we tend to develop and progress every day, learning from what we do and try in order to improve in the future. Just as an example, it can sometimes be said that a young rider can be too enthusiastic and so our job is to talk about the situation and together learn about our performance for the future”.
How would you define his sensitivity when transferring his feelings on the bike to the team to prepare the set-up?
“Considering his age and experience, he has proved to be very good at it. His ability to accurately describe his feelings, even during the practice, makes our view of the data much easier, as we can also take the rider’s feelings into account to work on the correct set-up”.
Has mutual understanding with the team been easy?
“It hasn’t been very difficult, really. Marc is a very cooperative young rider with a thirst for victory. I think that one of the reasons could be that his mentality is very similar to the calm and analytic way of working most typical of Northern Europe that our team is used to”.
Are you surprised by his performance since Mugello?
“To tell the truth, no. In the winter tests, it was clear that together we would be quite strong, although to be totally sincere; I must say that none of us expected five wins in a row. Perhaps that has surprised us a little”.
Have you thought a lot about the broken exhaust in Jerez?
“Aaah, don’t even mention it! In fact, I have. Then, it was obviously very present in our minds, but I think that we have to use these types of things in our favour and think that they make us even stronger”.
In a category like 125cc, what does it take to be World Champion?
“First of all, obviously you need a rider and I think that we have one. But the rider needs the right team and the right people and partners around him. Also you obviously need a little luck and finally, good feelings on the bike. To achieve an important goal, you really must have good feelings, both the rider and the team and at the moment, I am happy to say that I think that we have all of that”.
When you see him with red headphones lap after lap in the practices, what goes through your mind?
“I’m Scandinavian, so, I’m always worried! But obviously, I’m also excited”.
Do you think he is ready to be champion?
“I think it’s too early to talk about that. Of course, there is a chance, but together, with the team, we have to do it well with Marc in all the races to come. He has a strong mentality, but in the end, the only honourable response is that we have to wait and see what happens, do the best we can and talk again in November”.
We know Marc as a rider. What would you highlight about him as a person?
“I admire the fact that Marc can still be a normal boy in a normal family. I think that this is possibly one of the important qualities that make him so strong at the moment. I also like to go out with him in some of the little free time we have and I’m very pleased to say that we are quite good friends”.
Where do you see Marc Márquez in five years time?
“As I said, Marc is one of the biggest talents in the world, but racing has its risks and you also need luck. I think that he has a bright future ahead, especially with the right people around him”.
How are you going to tackle the second half of the season?
“We have talked about this with Marc many times and it’s important to keep our feet on the ground and work hard and keep focused as up until now”.
How do you prepare each Grand Prix?
“Firstly, it’s very important that the whole team is as well prepared as possible and we start to prepare many things during the pre-season, in the winter. Of course, we prepare many things the weekend before the race, when we try to draw on our experience, but also learn new things that we can use in the future”.
What do think is the role of Emilio Alzamora for Marc?
“Emilio has had a very important role throughout Marc’s career. They started together years ago and the role of Emilio was irreplaceable for Marc’s career, although as the rider has progressed, his role has changed and now, some of the technical responsibilities have fallen on the team. I think that we are all happy with the current situation and with our roles at the moment and I think that it is one of the key points in the success and the good work we do together. We can see how everyone around Marc is in the right place. Competition is truly a team effort!”.