Climbing on the podium at Catalunya
Randy Krummenacher's podium finish in Barcelona may have had almost miracle qualities for some observers, but for the Swiss teenager, currently engaged in rapid career advancement, his first big success in Grand Prix racing was just another
Randy Krummenacher's third place at the Grand Prix of Catalunya did catch him - and others - unaware, in fact the young rider barely got any rest when he returned home to Zurich. Life has been full for the 17-year-old Red Bull KTM 125 rider in the week's break leading up to British Grand Prix this weekend.
He has rushed from newspaper interviews to autograph sessions and was featured in two lengthy television specials. The whole of Switzerland took note of a very special sports moment when this young talent burst into the world's elite with style and flourish.
Randy had been 13th in the two previous races, his best results to that point in time and when he started in Barcelona from 15th position on the grid, nobody expected him to go out and take on the front runners - let alone take the lead.
Three laps from the end, the young Grand Prix rookie was riding high, he had fended off even his fiercest competitors from Spain and Italy, and stormed along the main straight of the Catalunya circuit into first position.
"To be leading the world's best was a completely new experience for me", the young Swiss reflected. "My heart was racing at 200 beats per minute. I didn't think of winning, I just told myself: Stay concentrated, keep your own rhythm, don't make any mistakes - and don't think of the names you are racing against.
Red Bull KTM team-mate Tomoyoshi Koyama and world championship leader Gabor Talmacsi took advantage of their greater experience and edged past Krummenacher in the final slipstream battles of the race, but for the rookie, the sweet taste of glory lingered on.
"Leading the field, celebrating third place in front of 112,000 fans and climbing a Grand Prix podium for the first time was an unbelievable experience", the still glowing Krummenacher remembers.
Unbelievable maybe, and for some, even a small miracle but when you look at the personal history of the 17-year-old it was certainly just another milestone. Randy's dad Peter, a successful Superbike racer of his time, took his little son to the races before he could even walk. A pocket bike in 1993 was the greatest gift the toddler could imagine even though he was only able to push it round until he had grown enough to ride it properly. Pocket-bike racing didn't exist in Switzerland at the time, but Randy still didn't hesitate and started to compete in mini-cross series. His passion grew, and Randy recalls a motocross world championship race in Switzerland in 1998, where he walked up to his heroes, Stefan Everts and Pit Beirer to ask for an autograph.
Today, the roles are now somewhat reversed. Former vice-world champion Beirer is now Offroad Sports Director for the KTM factory and 10-times world champion Stefan Everts is team boss of the KTM Red Bull motocross factory teams. Meanwhile Krummenacher has launched himself on the road to becoming one of the great heroes on two wheels. An accident with a collarbone injury stopped his motocross career in 2000, so Randy focussed on mini-bike road racing instead and took his first title when he became Swiss Champion in 2001. In 2003, he wanted to race real motorcycles on real race tracks, and signed up for the German Pro-Junior-Cup, an initiative not unlike today's Red Bull Rookies Cup being run in conjunction with selected MotoGP events. Krummenacher had secured victory in this Junior Cup before the season was finished, setting himself on the career path of professional racing. In 2004 and 2005 he rode the German 125 cc championship, his first experience on a full-s ized GP machine. It was then that he got to know Konrad Hefele, then crew chief of KTM's German Championship junior team.
Then 2006 was the turning point in his career; a magic year for Krummenacher. Half way through the season he was given the chance to step in for the injured Julian Simon and to compete in his first ever Grand Prix.
"Riding in the World Championship for the first time was nothing like the national categories - or even like the Spanish Open where I had started before. It was breathtaking to see how fast everyone went, not only the top guys, but everybody in the class", recalls Randy. "The first three laps of the race were unforgettable. The riding was so hard, with everybody aiming at the smallest gap, squeezing past inside and outside at each and every corner, no matter how. I dropped back to 29th in the first lap, but then pulled myself together and rode to 20th place."
This race and a number of other strong rides before Spaniard Simon resumed racing opened the doors for Randy's first full Grand Prix season this year.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Later in the year, Krummenacher broke his ankle in a German Championship race at the Austrian Salzburgring, and even though it took him only two and a half months to bounce back from his injury with third place at a Spanish Open race in Barcelona, he still hasn't completely recovered. With a talent and enthusiasm for athletics that has always been as big as his passion for racing, Krummenacher had trained and competed in triathlons all his life, since his first kid's triathlon with 200 metres of swimming, five kilometres of cycling and 1.2 kilometres of running at only six years of age. But since his crash on the Salzburgring, Randy still can't run long distances the way he used to and completes most of his training either in the Red Bull Diagnostics and Training Centre in Bad Fuschl or on his KTM bicycle.
The start into the 2007 season also didn't measure up to expectations. "We didn't have the time and material for extensive pre-season testing, which would have been really good for me", says Randy. Consequently the first Grands Prix were used to sort out initial teething trouble with the new motorcycles, such as chattering in mid-corner, or power delivery at the corner exits.
It was not until back on the track at Catalunya, a place where Randy also celebrated his very first podium in the Spanish Open last year that he and his team got it all together. "We had big problems on Friday, then we improved the bike on Saturday, and the icing on the cake came with some small changes that technical director Harald Bartol made for the race", says Randy. "All the guys in the team have done a marvellous job. I can't thank them enough."
Nobody knows if Randy's Red Bull KTM 125 will work as flawlessly in England this weekend, because the track characteristics of the Donington Park raceway are completely different. But one thing is certain: From now on, the young Swiss rider is a force to reckon with.
"Before the race in Barcelona, a victory or even a podium finish seemed far away, almost out of reach", says Randy. "But now, the possibility is there. I led the pack and I want to do it again - preferably in each and every race!"