Red Bull KTM Ajo have certainly impressed this past year as the Finnish team made history with their record wins in Moto2 and Moto3. ATRL’s Aino Ylitalo reviews their year of glory.
Moto2: Remy Gardner (P1) and Raul Fernandez (P2)
Moto3: Pedro Acosta (P1) and Jaume Masia (P4)
4 Riders, 4 championships, 2 classes, and 2 MotoGP graduates. Aki Ajo and his whole Red Bull KTM Ajo team have been able to pull a miracle performance this past 2021 season, making history as the first team to win all 4 championships in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.
Now with the 2021 season all wrapped and behind us, 2022 is fast approaching, and it’s a perfect time to look into the fantastic performance of the Finnish-based team and how exactly they pulled it all off.
Teammates to the title fight
The Moto2 season ended up being easily won for the team, with both of their riders being clear off from Marco Bezzecchi in P3 towards the end of the season. This, however, meant that the fight between teammates Remy and Raul only intensified.
At the beginning of the season, the British rider Sam Lowes was clearly in the championship lead, taking the win in both of the races held at the Losail circuit. His crash in Portimao opened the door for the Spanish rookie Raul Fernandez to take his first of many victories that season. Fernandez won again at the 5th GP of the season, held in France. On the other hand, Remy Gardner dominated the next three Grands Prix, taking a victory in Italy, Catalunya, and Germany alongside a pole at the Catalan GP.
Gardner ended up winning a total of 5 GPs that season with a handful of podiums and only one DNF, which secured him the 2021 Moto2 champion at the last race in Valencia. Gardner also raced the two last GPs with broken ribs to make this feat even more incredible. He suffered a crash in Portimao but refused to show his injury to a doctor in fear of them clearing him unfit for racing. On the other hand, Fernandez won 8 GPs breaking the 8-time world champion Marc Marquez’s record of 7 wins in a season in a junior class. Fernandez and Gardner also managed to bring home 7 double victories during the 18 races of the season.
The team found themselves in an unusual position, with both of the top 2 riders being from the same team. Team principal Aki Ajo talked about said ‘issue’ in an interview, highlighting that the team would be highly supportive of both riders and make their chances of winning the title as equal as possible. Ajo also emphasized that even though having their drivers compete for the title may be challenging, it just shows how well the team is doing.
The issues only seemed to come after the season had ended, with vice-champion Raul Fernandez self-proclaiming himself as the “moral champion of the 2021 season.” Fernandez threw around accusations, claiming the team tried to sabotage him and “put stones and obstacles” into his path to benefit Gardner’s title chances. Gardner denied all of Fernandez’s accusations, saying that they were “bullshit” and that the team gave them an equal chance at winning the championship. After the media altercation, Fernandez said he’d rather not comment about the issue anymore, believing that his words about the team were taken too harshly and assuring the public the team was supportive of him.
Reign of the rookie
The Moto3 team took a solid start to the season, with Jaume Masia leading home a double victory in the Qatar Grand Prix. Next came one of the many surprises of the season with Pedro Acosta taking three consecutive victories in Qatar, Portugal, and Spain, skyrocketing him into the championship lead.
Acosta shocked everyone, winning six Grands Prix, with two additional podiums to his name. Acosta’s biggest competition for most of the season was the Aspar team rider, Sergio Garcia. The crash Garcia suffered before the Grand Prix of the Americas caused him to sit out for two Grands Prix, which completely froze his title fight.
Even with Acosta’s dominant start to the season, he wasn’t safe from a challenge, with the Italian rider Dennis Foggia coming to life towards the end of the season.
Foggia’s best efforts weren’t enough, with Acosta winning the penultimate race and the title due to Darryn Binder crashing Foggia out of the race.
Even with the championship being decided in unfortunate conditions, Acosta still deserved the win after having a beautiful season with a strong pace and mentality. Congrats to the rookie champion!
Jaume Masia, on the other hand, was a more negative surprise for the team. Masia had been made out to be the number on the team, and things were set to look like that when he took a victory in the first Grand Prix of the season. This only lasted until the turning point of Acosta’s winning streak.
Considering Masia had more experience than a rookie, he was set to be the favorite at the team, but Acosta’s dominant results took that away. Masia still rode a strong season with a victory and a few podiums, but he flew mainly under the radar.
What Masia seemed to lack in his riding was confidence, which immediately showed in his results. He has openly and admirably talked about his mental strength and how he still needs to work on it, which is encouraging to see in a young rider. A rider needs to be both confident and comfortable on the bike, or the results won’t show. After another learning year, we’ll just have to wait and see what he brings to next season.
The past, the present, and the future, what’s next in store?
For the 2022 season, we will see Pedro Acosta take a step up to Moto2, alongside Augusto Fernandez (not related to Raul Fernandez), who’s moving from the Belgian Marc VDS team. Jaume Masia will continue his ride with the team in the Moto3 class next to 2021’s FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior champion Daniel ‘Dani’ Holgado.
Holgado was originally due to race at KTM Tech3, and Raul Fernandez’s little brother Adrian was supposed to race in Ajo’s team. Due to unknown reasons, KTM rearranged their riders so that Adrian would race at Tech3 and Daniel would move to the Finnish team of Ajo. The quartet surely has the pressure to succeed with the excellent results of this season looming over their heads.
Since 2001 we’ve seen a lot of talent pass through the doors of this team, one of the most notable being Marc Marquez.
Many KTM Ajo riders have gone on to become MotoGP riders and even winners & champions. From the current 2022 MotoGP grid, eight riders have raced for KTM Ajo at one point in their career, six of those being Grand Prix winners.
The ability to make great racers is very present in the team, and hopefully, the success will carry on to the future seasons. Currently, the team is full of talent, and it has two title-holding champions in it, so expectations are undoubtedly high leading into the forthcoming seasons. With the reinstallation of the Finnish Grand Prix after 40-years, hopefully, the team can also experience some homeland glory at Kymiring.
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