Cortese: "I'm ready to fight for the championship"

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fresh from a positive test in Jerez, Sandro Cortese spoke to motogp.com about the KTM Moto3 package and his thoughts for the season ahead.

2012 is set up to be an exciting season for Cortese as he contests his eighth season in the lowest-cylinder category. His return to the championship-winning Ajo team sees the young German on factory machinery for the first time.

motogp.com caught up with Cortese as he returned from a week at the Red Bull training centre in Salzburg, Austria.

What were you doing at the Red Bull training centre?
"It was my first time there. We did some diagnostic things, running, cycling and physiotherapy, just to check how my condition is. They put everything into a book so they know that I´m good at this and bad at that, how to improve my conditional training. They have some machines which check your body, how the back is, which leg is stronger, everything. So it works with normal training, knowing what you have to focus on more."

How are you feeling after Jerez?
"I feel really good, the first test in Valencia was the perfect start. In Jerez we just had small problems, general things because it´s a new bike. We had to develop a completely new bike and that takes some time until everything works well. We worked on things like the engine, on the tyre life, just to be ready for Qatar."

The KTM showed to be a very strong package at the last tests. How does the bike feel?
"Right now it looks very strong for the first race but for sure Honda with [Maverick] Viñales and [Miguel] Oliveira will improve and at the end it will be a big fight again. But I think altogether with KTM, the team and Aki [Ajo, Red Bull Ajo Team Manager] we are very strong right now. I have been working with him two years now, he knows how I work and I know how the team works and it´s good to come back after a year with Racing Team Germany. I made some mistakes in the past and I learned from them, I think Aki also, and together we have grown. Working with the KTM factory, with their background and the engineers they bring to the racetrack, is such a big help. If you have a private team in Moto3 and you just have the engine and the chassis the whole year I think it´s difficult to be really fast. Now with the factory behind us, if we have a small problem they’ll work to make sure we don’t have that problem at the next race."

Considering Aki´s record, do you think the strong KTM package and your many years of experience sets you up for a title challenge in 2012?
"I hope so, but we have to work really hard because for sure the others will be working as hard as me. Together with KTM and Aki we are very strong and I hope we can fight for the title. But at this moment I don’t really want to talk about the title, I just want to have a good start to the season and use the first three or four races to settle a little bit in the ranking, to be in the first three. Then I just have to be consistent and finish every race, which this year is the most important thing. With eight engines, we have to make sure that we are consistent, that the engine life works well because if you need nine or ten engines a year and you have to start at the back, then you lose at least two races. You have to be strong the whole season. But I think I am prepared, I had a lot of seasons in 125 and I had big fights in the past and I think I´m ready to fight for the championship."

Who will be your biggest rivals?
"I think I have my biggest rival in the team at the moment, I think Danny [Kent] is very strong. Also [Hector] Faubel, I think the Aspar group is always very strong during the season. I don’t know how Oliveira will be, he was fast in the Spanish Championship though not so fast in the last two tests. The one I think will be the hardest will be Viñales."

Will it push you to have a direct challenge with your team-mate Kent?
"I think it helps because he will be strong all the time. I don’t know, he´s still young and you don’t know if he´ll be good in one race or if he´ll be consistent the whole season, but he´s so motivated and will always give his best. If he´s in front in one practice or one race for sure my motivation will be much higher the next Qualifying or the next race to beat him again and be number one in the team. But what I learned is to concentrate on your own business sometimes. Like in 2010 I was on a team with Marc Marquez and for me it was a very hard year to try to beat him and sometimes I made mistakes. So I learned to just work with your own group in the team and I think this is what makes you more successful."

Do you think there is pressure on you to deliver now that you´re contesting your eighth season and on such a strong team?
"I don’t feel under pressure. I enjoy being in a real factory team for the first time in my career with KTM and with Red Bull, a very good sponsor. I´m just enjoying riding the factory bike and doing as well as I can. I think it´s not good to put yourself under pressure and say "ok, now I have a good team, I have a good bike, I have to win." I´ll just go into the races, into the Qualifying and give my best, put 110% into it and if in the race it´s second one time and third another time, I did my best. But in the end I think if you are consistent the whole season this makes the difference."

How do the 250cc 4-strokes feel as opposed to the 125cc 2-strokes?
"At the first test there was a big difference, I had never ridden a 4-stroke in my life on a race track, only Supermoto. So I had to change my riding style completely, use less rear brake because with a 125 I used the rear brake a lot and in Moto3 there´s so much engine brake that you really don´t need the rear brake anymore, you can brake much later than the 125s. But after the first test I enjoy riding the 4-strok ea lot, it´s the future."

Do you think the new regulations for Moto3 will make this your hardest year? Do you see it being as competitive as Moto2?
"Until now, the Hondas have not had a real kick so we don’t know really where we are. We just saw Viñales and he was already strong. I think at the next test we will see if we have a big advantage or if we are the same as the others. But I think we can’t compare it so much with Moto2, because there everyone has the same engine and you have to work more with the chassis and with your level of riding. But in Moto3, it makes a big difference if you have a good engine, a good chassis, a good factory behind that supports you and also a good rider."

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