Red Bull KTM 250 star Mika Kallio rode to his maiden 250 cc victory in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix to score a hat-trick on the Motegi circuit, an appropriate way to also mark the birth of his first child, a baby girl born last Sunday.
Kallio won the 125
cc races on this circuit in 2005 and 2006.
"It looks like Motegi is a very good track for us", he said. The 24-year-old Finn had a great start from the second row of the grid, but calculated his moves very carefully in tricky and damp conditions, before opening a lead of almost five seconds by the end of the race.
"By mid-race, I overtook Dovizioso and continued to push, but I was always followed very closely. There didn't seem to be any change to get away so I decided to just ride at my own rhythm. Then it started to drizzle again, which was disturbing, but I was able to keep my speed. I only noticed in the last lap that Dovizioso was the only one left behind me and the fact that he slowed made it easier in the end."
Kallio's performance also drew praise from Technical Director Harald Bartol.
"His race was a tactical masterpiece. In the beginning, he was looking carefully how the grip level was and how the tyres were doing, and in the end, he had an ace up his sleeve that he pulled out in the right moment."
Kallio's team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama, winner here last year aboard his Red Bull KTM 250 was not so lucky. He also looked set for a podium finish and had moved right up behind Kallio with just five laps to go but then crashed when he tried to defend his second place against Andrea Dovizioso. Aoyama still managed to continue after his fall, and eventually came home in eighth position.
Aoyama, while congratulating his team-mate also admitted that he would have liked to win himself on his home circuit.
"At the beginning of the race, and also by mid-race, I was behind the leading group. It took me time to get the right feeling for the tyres, and the fact that the rain almost stopped helped in this respect. Towards the end of the race, I caught up with the top riders, and waited for the right moment to attack. In the last two laps, I thought I could have a go at Mika and challenge his lead, but then Dovizioso took me by surprise and passed. I tried to overtake him on the outside line. I was carrying a lot of speed and lost the line", the disappointed Japanese rider said. Hiroshi was able to continue after the crash and came home eighth.
Bartol was also philosophical. "It was an almost perfect race for us, but then Hiroshi crashed. I don't blame him though - these things can happen in the heat of the battle, and I would rather have a rider who takes some risks than one who is over-cautious!”