“This is like a victory for us”
Red Bull KTM 250's maestro Mika Kallio succeeded in riding around problems he had with the feeling of his bike at the late night practice sessions for the Qatar Grand Prix and still finished the season's opening race with a podium place.
all our problems in practice, this is like a victory for us", the Finnish rider declared after the race, his hundredth start in the world championship 125 cc and 250 cc series and the first ever night race held under floodlight.
Kallio wound up the 2007 season in top form aboard his KTM FFR 250 when he won the final race of last season in Valencia. He had also been in excellent form during pre-season testing. Starting from the front row of the grid Sunday, the 24-year-old tucked in behind the front group of riders and with characteristic tactical savvy, waited patiently for the opportunity to make his move near the end of the race when some of his opponents started to run into tyre problems.
"We used exactly the same settings from yesterday's last qualifying, including the same tyre compounds, and this turned out to be the right decision", Kallio said. "The feeling for the bike still wasn't perfect, but at least, it was a bit warmer today and the improved track conditions helped me to evaluate the grip limit. My plan was to stay with the frontrunners right from the beginning but in the early stages Barbera was too fast and opened a gap on me. Later on, I managed to do better lap times and started to catch up again about the time when Bautista ran into tyre problems and dropped back.
I got really close to Barbera and Pasini on the final lap but getting ahead of them wasn't possible today."
Kallio was very happy with his third place. He did have some expectations that a podium might have been possible if all went well, even after some mediocre sessions during the testing and practice days in Losail. "To finally achieve it is fantastic", he said. "I am really looking forward to the next round in Jerez, where we did well in testing and where we should have a true chance to fight for victory!"
KTM Technical Director Harald Bartol said Mika Kallio made the best of his chances and rode a perfect race. "His race pace deserves respect considering his lack of feeling for the grip level and the tyres. He judged his moves very carefully, and waited for the right moment to attack.
Team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama was not so lucky. The Japanese ace started from the third row of the grid but saw his hopes of catching up with the leaders dashed when he ran into unexpected handling problems early in the race. Aoyama dropped back through the field as a result of a lack of rear wheel grip and some clutch problems but kept his cool and went on to finish in sixteenth place.
"I was hoping to be able to turn things around in the race, but instead, things got worse", Aoyama said. "I had a decent start, but then, almost from the very beginning, I didn't seem to have rear tyre grip at all. It was like skating on ice. I dropped back further and further and later on, I also had a problem with the clutch. I managed to finish the race - but this is about the best I can say!"
Red Bull KTM