The Red Bull KTM Ajo team issued a press release today, containing an interview with Karel Hanika, the young Czech rookie who has made an astounding debut in the Moto3 class during testing. In the interview, Hanika talks about progress in testing, working inside the Ajo team structure, and being the favorite to win rookie of the year in Moto3. The press release appears below:
"I wasn’t expecting to be so fast in preseason"
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider anxiously awaiting debut in World Championship after strong preseason –in which he was third last week at Jerez.
Karel Hanika is the reigning Red Bull Rookies Cup champion and a Moto3 World Championship debutant with Red Bull KTM Ajo. He has surprised many with his speedy preseason performances, and was third quickest at last week’s Jerez test. The 17 year-old is delighted with his new team, with KTM and with the help of new teammate Jack Miller.
The man with the number 98 will debut this Sunday at Losail, Qatar.
What is your analysis of this preseason?
"I think I can say that after the last test at Jerez, overall it was not bad. We've done a lot of work, many experiments and ridden very well. We have also had a mix of fast laps and race simulation laps. After all that, we are ready to start the season."
This is your first season in the Moto3 World Championship and you finished amongst the three fastest riders in preseason. Are you surprised at your results? Did you expect to be at this level right now?
"The truth is that it is not what I expected. I thought I was not going to be so fast and would be further down the order. But I'm happy because these results are really good. Hopefully we can maintain this level ahead of the opening race and be as close as possible to the top positions in Qatar."
How were the first few days with your new Red Bull KTM Ajo team?
"It's great to be here. My team are fantastic, the mechanics are very professional and they all work hard every day. Everyone is very nice and this greatly improves the environment inside and outside the garage –we are a great group."
What role does Aki Ajo play in this structure?
"Aki plays many roles in this team. He helps us in the development of the bike, giving advice to riders about learning to read different situations. He also likes to help the mechanics to make sure the bike is perfectly prepared. Obviously he also conducts team management matters. It can’t be easy, but he really handles it very well."
How is your right hand after the injury? Do you think there may be a slowdown in your progress this season because of it?
"I'm better now, although it's a shame I missed a day of testing in Valencia. Anyway, I think in the end every rider suffers from one injury or another, so there’s no excuses. The important thing is that now the injury is healed."
You've never raced at a Grand Prix –not even as a wildcard. What is your goal for your first season?
"We'll see, depending on how the season progresses. At Valencia and Jerez we were always inside the top ten and it would be nice to keep that going when we start racing. Obviously it’s not going to be easy, because on track you never know what will happen, but we will try, for sure."
You won the 2013 edition of the Red Bull Rookies Cup. Do you feel any personal, external or team pressure?
"The truth is that I feel no pressure from the team and crew. Maybe I do feel a little pressure from the fans, because I want them to be satisfied with my performance. Perhaps this is the only thing, although it is not very much pressure. The important thing is to be confident in myself and the team and to be able to achieve good results."
How does your 2 years of experience in that series help you?
"It’s clear that the Red Bull Rookies Cup was a great experience for me, a great schooling to prepare me for the World Championship. Thanks to this, now I know many of the tracks on the calendar. Additionally, I more or less know how the paddock works and it’s not all new to me."
At the recent tests we could see that the championship is going to be very tight. How do you rate the other riders?
"Obviously the other riders are very strong, as that’s why they are here. The level is much higher than elsewhere. The riders and bikes are very fast. I am very happy with the KTM, because to me it is the best bike on the grid."
What is the new KTM like? I’m guessing it is quite different from the bike you rode last year.
"Yes, it is different. The power, suspension, brakes, and the position in which you sit on the bike are all different. However, I think I learned pretty quickly at the tests and soon the bike and I will be more in sync –although I feel good now–."
How do you see the other rookies? Are you gunning for Rookie of the Year?
"It is fortunate that Danny Kent and Jack Miller are both ineligible! [laughs]. No, seriously, we will try to do our best, with no set goals, and see how we end up ahead of the final stretch of the season."
Considering you've never been to Qatar, what is the objective there?
"It will be difficult, because I've never ridden there and because the race will be at night. However, I think the goal remains the same: Stay in the top ten and get close to the top positions."
Your teammate has plenty of experience. Has Jack Miller been helping you out recently?
"Yes, he's a great teammate. If I need help at tracks where I've never been, he teaches me to follow his lines and match his speed. If I have problems, he always shows willingness to help and that is welcomed by me. He is a great person."
You're an unknown to many of the followers of the World Championship, and your hair has attracted some attention. Why do you wear it so long?
"Good question, but I don’t know! [laughs]. I've always worn it long and will keep it like that. Although I do not know if it will last; I told Aki that I will cut it if I get a podium."