He's finally got the right feeling
In the days following the GP of China, Red Bull KTM 250 rider Kallio improved the skills of a group of motorcycle enthusiasts in a rider's training at home in Finland. But his 5th place also boosted Kallio's own confidence for Le Mans.
After a difficult start into your first 250 cc season, you scored fifth place at the Grand Prix of China. Was this the turning point for the better ?
“We definitely found a better way of setting up and using the bike in China, which was a big relief. The start of our season was not as satisfactory as it might have been. We had some rare mechanical problems with the bike on two occasions and that mean't I wasn't able to finish in two races. This was also quite a big mental set-back because the first three races are very important for a rider. If you go well, you develop a good feeling for the races to come. Now, after the results we had at the Grand Prix in Shanghai, this feeling has arrived. It might have come a bit later than expected but it's definitely there now !”
You struggled in most of the practice sessions before getting everything right for the race. What makes it so difficult to find the right set-up ?
“We don't know exactly. Everything went quite well during the winter tests, including my lap times, but just before the racing season we started to run into difficulties with the chassis set-up and that proved tricky to resolve. The fact that I didn't have any experience in the 250 cc category was also a contributing factor. I couldn't quite put my finger on specific problems and decide what would be the best way to react to them. This is coming to me more naturally now that I have a few races under my belt.
The way we managed to improve the bike in China gives me confidence.”
The characteristics of the stop-and-go Le Mans race track are completely different to the fast Shanghai circuit with its long straights and long, interlinking corners. Will this be better or worse for you and KTM ?
“Le Mans with its late-braking action and its shorter corners should be better for us. The problems that we've had so far have been with the chassis. The bike was not turning as well as it should and there was a certain lack of rear grip. We managed to improve the handling and got the bike to turn better in China, but we still struggled with rear end grip. This meant we lost a lot on the long corners of the track. The fact that Le Mans doesn't have these long corners should make it easier for us. I also have quite a good feeling with the bike under brakes and it seems that I'm hitting the braking points well. This is also very important in Le Mans.”
The Le Mans track is about braking hard, but also about accelerating hard. How does your KTM compare to the fastest Aprilia ?
“KTM and Aprilia have quite similar acceleration so this is not a problem for us. Compared to Honda, our acceleration is even a little better. Again, the problem is with the chassis set-up. If you can't open the throttle early enough, you lose speed going onto the next straight, and this obviously also hurts your top speed. If we can further improve our set-up and find some more grip on the corner exits, then we will be on a par with Aprilia.”
World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo seems to be a class of his own at the moment. Which other 250 cc rider has impressed you in the season so far ?
“I would say Julian Simon. Like me, he is a newcomer to this class but he's been quite good in every race so far. And we have to remember he rides a Honda, which is not on the same level as Aprilia or our KTM. Alvaro Bautista has also done really well, but he also has been on a really good bike. “
How do you feel about Casey Stoner's success with Ducati ?
“It's nice to see him win races and lead the world championship. Everybody knows how fast he is but he had many crashes in former years. Now he has found a good way to reach the limit, but not to exceed it, and obviously his bike is also very good. It's also nice to see that there is not so much difference between MotoGP and the other classes, as far as rider talent goes. Casey Stoner proves to all of us that if you are fast in the two-stroke categories, you can also do well in MotoGP !”