Team Boss Aki Ajo - How Moto3 Became A War, And Why That Means Riders Are Less Ready For Moto2

All sports evolve over time, and motorcycle racing is no different. The nature of racing changes as rider skills evolve, as rider training evolves, and as the bikes they ride develop in new directions. Sometimes those changes help riders better prepare for the next level of racing, but sometimes, those changes can be counterproductive.

At Mugello, I spoke to one of the most successful team managers of recent years, Aki Ajo, about how the Moto3 class is developing and changing, and how the current direction of Moto3 is affecting the development of young riders. He had some fascinating and surprising insights into how the class has changed in recent years, and what effect those changes will have when riders move up from Moto3 to Moto2 and MotoGP.

As Moto3 bikes have improved, they have allowed a more aggressive riding style, Ajo told me. And that, he believes, spells trouble in years ahead. As far as Aki Ajo is concerned, picking the right Moto3 rider to step up to Moto2 has become a lot more difficult.

Raw aggression

Part of the problem is that winning a Moto3 race requires less preparation and more naked aggression, Ajo told me. "OK, maybe I am not the right guy to talk about this, because we haven't won a dry Moto3 race in nearly three years – our concept also changed, so we only have junior riders, and we won last year in the wet – but if we are talking about a normal dry race, I think it really changed. It's like a war now," the Finnish veteran said.

"Is that a good thing?" Ajo asked rhetorically. "I don't know. Personally I liked a bit more like it was before, where it is a bit more related to your work, and what you have done during the week, and how your crew is working." Those were the skills that transferred to Moto2 and MotoGP, according to Ajo. "Because in Moto2, you need to work really seriously for the race all the time, and find the race pace. Now, when Moto3 is like this, it's difficult to make riders focus for the pace and consistency. Because it's not the only key anymore. It's one key, but it's not the only key."

Is it easier to win a race now that Moto3 is a lot closer than it was in the past? "In some ways, yes," Ajo replied pensively. "It has become easier. Of course it's never easy: you need something, you need to be very brave, and you need to be maybe even a little bit too aggressive, let's say. And you need some strategy as well, and you need some luck too. Maybe more luck than in the bigger categories. How it was before in Moto3 and 125, I liked that a little bit more, because it was maybe more connected to the skill and experience."

Fewer makes, tighter racing

What changed? "Difficult to say. I think one reason for sure is the competition between the manufacturers. Before there were more manufacturers, and there were a few steps between them. Now there are basically only two, and they are really, really close to each other. Both are really competitive. This is one reason. And also it seems like maybe the bikes are developing this way, that you can ride them really aggressively. If you compare the times with the 125s, maybe the tires, the bikes themselves, everything is improving, and you can ride in a really aggressive way, and this aggressive way works in the last laps, of course."

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Where else would we read an interview like this one? Ajo obviously trusts David and speaks candidly to him. Reading this is like being there with the two men. Bravo, David, and thanks! 


Everything Aki Ajo says is correct. And for this very reason it's why people like him should never be left in charge of making the rules.

What we have in Moto3 (and all classes) right now is pure entertainment. The races are compelling viewing from start to finish, and quite often impossible to predict. Carmelo Ezpeleta (the boss of Dorna, the series organiser) knows this, and we have him to thank for standing up to the team bosses and manufacturers, and getting his own way.

Would you like to know what a racing series looks like when the team bosses and manufacturers write the rules? It's called Formula 1, and it's more or less unwatchable.

I think moto3 has evolved to its maximum. Everyone is riding 100%, getting 100% out of the bike and the tires. Which is fine, but Aki is right; it doesn't really prepare riders for a moto2 bike with electronics, 515 more cc and double the horsepower. Which brings me to my suggestion, introduce a new moto3 class based on 500cc engines; re-name moto3 to moto4. Each class could get more technical as the hp and displacement went larger. Ideally, manufacturers would realize it was just a variation of a motogp engine; 1 cylinder-moto4; two cylinders moto3; 3-cylinders moto2; 4 cylinders motogp.

But then I would want a motogp² class with 8 cylinders.




I remember reading a similar suggestion years ago.  That moto3 should be a single cylider 250cc class, moto2 should be a twin cylinder 500cc class, and motogp should be a four cylinder 1000cc class.  Give them all the same bore, stroke, and material restrictions.

An extra race at each Gp round, more entertainment for the fans. Another step on the climb to the top class, more seats for aspiring racers to display their talent.

Maybe this role will be filled by Moto - E, hopefully the electric bikes will actually race this year.

Moto-E are production based bikes aren't they? So run them in WSBK. Then the Moto- twins can take the timeslots reserved for Moto-E.

That would be cool if they could fit the twins into the schedule.  If the space can be made for moto-E then we could have racing twins again. The return of the racing twins might be relevant to road bike development. And another round for the vee twin versus parallel twin saga.

The 8 cylinders would have to be vee eights just for the sound. I know I'm dreaming.

Back on topic great interview with a great team manager & nice guy Aki Ajo.

I am quite sure that Ducati would enter the class if they were allowed to run their desmo valve operation. The same mechanical valve operation that they started to use on their 1960's road bikes is banned in Moto3.

Outside of the cream like Marc Marques it has always been hard to pick moto3 talent that can go on and suceed in the bigger classes. Ajo has had five ? world championship riders since 2008 and three of these, Di Meglio, Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent (last one won WC with another team) have not moved on to the expected bigger bike success.

Two of the three dominant Moto3 WC from the last two year Brad Binder and Martin are this year struggling on KTM Moto2 bikes rather than progressing and developing. Zarco who won two Moto2 WC with Ajo is struggling on a KTM MotoGP bike, and Mir  is showing mixed form on a Suzuki MotoGP after only one year in Moto2. I will be surprised if all of these don't get there someday.

Then there are ex Ajo riders like Arthur Sissis now running mid pack in Australian superbike when at one stage he seemed a better propspect than Jack Miller.

A key seems to be how quickly riders can learn and progress through the classes. Riders who stay too long in a feeder class don't seem to succeed quickly when they eventually do move up to the next one. 2005 125cc WC Tom Luthi was an example of this when he got to MotoGP.

And thats why I believe signing Quartararo was a brilliant move.

The answer is parity: they've been striving for years to make the bikes more similar, so that the factory that spends the most does not necessarily win. Now with everything regulated, standardized, and made very similar, the bikes are the same, and the difference is more and more about the rider. It was supposed to be the rider's skills, but as you can see, aggression helps put you over the edge.

The same has been happening in MotoGP, and is starting just maybe last year to have some effects. How many different riders and factories are starting to podium??? A lot more than the four aliens of 6-8 yrs ago.