He had trodden two of the steps on the podium at his home circuit in the Comunidad Valenciana, a circuit where turn four bears his name, and he even celebrated the 125 World Championship there in 2011.
However, the top step had eluded Nico Terol up until the final round of the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship, when the Mapfre Aspar rider put together a perfect race to take the victory in front of an adoring home crowd. His third win of the season, which was also his fourth podium in total, capped off a year of learning; a season of highs and lows that Terol is now hoping can provide the foundations to a much more consistent 2014. Typical of his approach to racing, though, he will be taking things one weekend at a time.
Did you imagine you could end the season with a win in Valencia?
I knew I had a chance because I love the Ricardo Tormo circuit and it has always been good to me. I had the podium from last year still fresh in my mind and I was convinced I could do it again, although I wasn't sure if I could win because in Moto2™ it's really tough. My pace was good in practice but I needed a little extra, which we found on Saturday afternoon and then on Sunday morning in warm-up, when the set-up became clear. I went fastest in that session and knew I had a chance of winning the race.
You have scored podiums there, won a title there, even have a corner named after you there but never won a race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit. Was it a case of unfinished business for you?
Partly, yes. All of those prior successes had been incredible in their own way but I wanted to win. To be crowned World Champion at the Ricardo Tormo circuit was amazing for me. That was a race I thought I could have won but my tyres dropped off and I had to ride conservatively and think about the championship. I wouldn't change anything about that 125 title win in 2011 but I always wondered what it might be like to win in my home race and finally I got that chance. It was an incredible feeling.
What is it like to win at the Ricardo Tormo circuit?
Crossing that line and seeing all your team on the pit wall is something special, and I was extra lucky this year because the grandstands were packed. As soon as I got to turn one on the cool down lap I started waving to them and then in Doohan corner I was able to light the 'traca', run over to the stands and show my appreciation to the fans for their support. The circuit felt like it was shaking, it was wonderful. I enjoyed myself like a little kid; to end the season with a win is an extra bonus in terms of getting ready for next season.
You ended up missing out on the lap record at Valencia by just two-thousandths of a second to your team-mate Jordi Torres. It seems you have a fantastic relationship with him even though you are rivals.
I have a great relationship with Jordi both on and off the track. As soon as we put our leathers on we both know it is time to be serious and to work hard but other than that we are always joking around and having fun. We have a close relationship and I know I can talk to him about anything, although mainly we talk about bikes! The fact we are both fast is helping us a lot, we have a healthy rivalry that is pushing us both on and making sure we constantly improve. Obviously on the track the first person you have to look after is yourself but if we can help each other out we always do. On a personal level I would say I am more shy and Jordi is more outgoing but we complement each other well. We both know how tough it has been to get where we are and that is why we both work so hard. The fact we are both straightforward guys means we can get along just fine.
If Pol hadn't crashed do you think you would have had to ride differently?
I don't think so. I could see from behind that Espargaró was riding a little over the limit and I was pulling back a tenth or two in certain sections. I reckoned that the way he was attacking the race would eventually take its toll on his tyres, and tyre wear had been a problem all weekend for the Kalex riders. So my plan was always to stay calm and to keep pushing all race, which is exactly what I continued to do once he crashed.
Three wins, a second place and your first pole position in Moto2™... how do you rate the season?
I would say my second season in Moto2™ has been positive, not just because of the podiums but because of what we have learnt. We finished the championship in seventh place with four podiums, three of them wins, but we need to be more consistent in future. After Espargaró I was the joint second winningest rider alongside Redding and Rabat, and my team-mate Jordi and I were the only Suter riders to win at all. That suggests we have a lot of potential and the team have been doing a great job. Now we need to make the most of the experience we have gathered and make sure we don't make the same mistakes again. Learning how to better control the bike when the set-up is not perfect is something I learnt a lot about this season.
How can you win three races and then have such contrasting results in others?
I crashed at Le Mans because my visor completely steamed up and I hit a patch of water. At Montmeló we struggled to find the right set-up and got lost. As soon as that happens in Moto2™ you can quickly lose ground. The retirement at Sachsenring was a shame because we were running in ninth place when the bike broke down. I scored points at Indianapolis but that was a race I was expecting much more from - I was going well but became dehydrated and had to drop my pace just to make it to the end of the race. And in Malaysia I crashed. I don't tend to crash a lot but you have to ride so on the limit in this category that sometimes you have to take more risks than you really should. The 2013 season taught us that we need to be more consistent.
Which was your favourite win of the year?
It's hard to pick just one. The first one in Austin was special because it was my first win in Moto2™ and it was the first ever edition of the GP of the Americas. In such a strong category a win does wonders for your self-belief. Aragón was nice because I dominated the whole weekend, in the way I used to in 125, but I have to say the win at Ricardo Tormo was the most special. It is where I have a corner named after me, where I won my World Championship and where I love the fans. It was a perfect weekend for me, for my team-mate Jordi who was up there on the podium with me, for the whole team and for the sponsors.
Last year you scored a podium at Valencia that really helped you to build in 2013. Does your win this year mean you are ready to take another step forward now?
Of course that is what I hope. We know that Moto2™ is a very difficult category but we have another year of experience under our belt now, we have improved a lot and our objective next season is to be consistent frontrunners.
Are you ready to be tipped as a title contender?
I don't expect them to tip me as that but I won't mind if they do. Whatever happens over the winter my approach will be the same. I am going to work hard each day as if it were my last, to meet every little challenge I set myself and then we will see where we are at the end of the season. If we start out thinking about the title then we have started out badly. All I am focused on is running at the front in every race, taking each one as it comes without thinking about what might happen at the end.
How has winter testing been so far?
It has been good to get some laps in and to get a different kind of feeling. We have been able to gather a lot of information about the new chassis and we have given the Suter engineers our feedback so that they can work on it. There are things we still need to decide and the new chassis certainly needs to improve in certain areas, such as getting the bike stopped, but we have also done a lot of work with the 2013 version and found some good solutions with that so the signs are encouraging. We can be optimistic about the future.
What are you looking forward to doing this winter?
First of all resting and enjoying some time at home with the family. I guess I will go skiing for a few days with friends over Christmas, which is something I love. Then it will be the same winter programme as usual, spending time in the mountains training hard to get physically ready for preseason.
Define the 2013 season in a few words.
A year of learning in an extremely tough category. I tried to give my best in every race and to enjoy myself on the bike.