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Ajo’s Touch

Ajo’s Touch

Aki Ajo has become one of the most esteemed managers in the lightweight class, helping to shape countless champions in their formative years

The leader of the Red Bull KTM Ajo and Ajo Motorsport squads in Moto3™ and Moto2™, Aki Ajo has produced three champions in the lightweight class since his team started in 2002 as well as helping to shape some of the brightest stars in the MotoGP™ World Championship. The 2002 season was highly successful debut with Mika Kallio, Ajo’s rider at the time, going on to claim fifth overall and Rookie of the Year.

It would take only six years for the Finnish team to achieve their first world title with Mike De Meglio in 2008. This would be followed in 2010 by Marc Marquez taking his first title and then once more in 2012 as Sandro Cortese became the first Moto3™ World Champion.

Along with this list of champions Ajo has grown his team to at various points include projects such as the Avant-Air Asia-Ajo team, which ran Johann Zarco to second in 2011, and the Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo Moto3™ squad in 2014 as well as his current Moto2™ project with Johann Zarco. What is perhaps more impressive than Ajo’s list of winners is his ability to tame the wild ones, turning hot headed aggressive riders into championship contenders.

Finnish riders and racers are often nicknamed ‘Ice-man’, their calm, collected and reserved personalities a contrast to the fast, frantic and hyper aggressive nature of most racing. Ajo himself fills the Finnish stereotype well, remaining focused at all times and staying calm in even the most testing of circumstances.

One such event was the 2010 125cc race at the Portuguese GP when Marc Marquez crashed on the formation lap, the Ajo squad forced to rapidly rebuild his bike in pit lane. During this frantic series of event Aki Ajo remained calm, helping to oversee the rapid repair of Marquez’s Derbi. Many believe that all riders who come under the tutelage of Ajo benefit greatly from his calm and level headed approach.

Perhaps the best example of this calming effect is Luis Salom. In 2012, before riding for the Ajo team, Salom took eight podiums including two wins but crashed three times and finished outside the top five on three occasions with a reputation as a supremely aggressive and emotional rider. These are undoubtedly strong results, but too inconsistent for a real championship challenge, 2011 had shown similar results from Salom who a frequent visitor to the top five, but also a frequent visitor to the grave traps.

Then in 2013 Salom would join the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad and fail to finish only once and take his title challenge down to the last race in Valencia. Many accredit Aki Ajo with the taming of Salom, forming him into a title contender. A similar story can be seen with Jack Miller, Ajo seeing the raw yet unrefined talent of the Australian and allowing him a chance on a competitive factory machine, a chance he took to second in the title hunt.

In 2015 Johann Zarco once again comes under the wing of Ajo in the Finn’s new Moto2™ team, the first time he has ventured outside of the lightweight class. Just as in 2011, 2015 has Zarco as a title contender but with far fewer mistakes and rash moves.

Mika Kallio may have been the first Ajo rider but the alumni list reads as a who’s-who of MotoGP™ with current and future stars having all spent time with the calming Finn. Alongside Marc Marquez the likes of Dominique Aegerter, Danny Kent and Jonas Folger have all at various points raced for Ajo and no doubt benefited from his wisdom. The lightweight class is perhaps the most critical time in a rider’s career, poor results and they may never advance. Under the guide of Ajo many have been able to progress through and make it to higher ranks and some, such as Marc Marquez, reaching the very top.

Moto3, 2015, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Ajo Motorsport

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