Not the best start at round 1 in Qatar this weekend, but at least the bikes looked good :)
Husqvarna, a name rich in tradition and success in the word of motorsports and motorcycle manufacture in 2014 begins to write a new chapter for the brand when it enters the MotoGP World Championships in the small bike Moto3 category.
The company that unveiled their first motorized bicycle in 1903, regularly visited to top step of the podium in road racing in the 1930s and went on to be a major force in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s in motocross and enduro racing, contests Moto3 for the first time in the 2014 season.
The Husqvarna FR 250 GP bike has been unveiled and tested in private and official tests. British rider Danny Kent, who returns to Moto3 after a year away in the Moto2 is under contract as a factory rider for the Red Bull Husqvarna Factory Racing Team and he, and Husqvarna-supported rider Niklas Ajo will be jointly under the expert eye and guidance of team manager Aki Ajo.
Ajo, from Finland, is a man who understands what being engaged in the 110 years of Husqvarna history and tradition is all about. Speaking recently to Speedweek in December, Ajo said: “As a young Finn I always dreamed of being able to own a Husqvarna. I followed the career of Heikki Mikkola (the “Flying Finn”, Motocross World Champion 1974 and beyond) very closely and I devoured every line that was written about him in magazines”
After three round of official pre-season tests at the Valencia and Jerez circuits, plus private testing at other circuits, Ajo said Husqvarna had “made a good start”. In the second round of tests at Jerez, Kent wrapped up his three days at fifth overall on the timesheet and supported-rider Niklas Ajo was in a solid seventh overall.
“This is where we want to be,” Ajo said after the second tests in Jerez. “It’s a good basis to build on and we are already in a good direction. For the last test we will concentrate on fine tuning of the bike and so that the riders get a good feeling for the machine.”
In the final round of tests prior to the first Moto3 GP, the night race in Qatar on March 23, Kent went on to finish seventh on the combined time sheets after nine sessions over three days and Ajo was a solid twelfth.
Ajo said Husqvarna had obviously put in a lot of hard work on the technical side of the brand’s first Moto3 bike, the FR 250 GP. “This is clear from the
pre-season tests,” he said, “and I can say that I am proud to be working with Husqvarna again, particularly in road racing. The brand has a lot of tradition and history and this is a new era, so it’s very good to be involved in this.”
Looking ahead, Ajo said he hoped and expected that the FR 250 GP bike will be good on all the circuits in the course of the team’s debut season. “Sometimes we do find that one or other circuit suits a particular bike or rider but we will take that as it comes. The important thing is that we bring the good feeling we had during the pre-season tests to the track and keep working like this.”
Of his factory rider, Ajo said Kent had benefited from his year in Moto2. “We have seen over the past two seasons that both Moto3 and Moto2 are very competitive and hard fought. Often there will be 5-6 riders all within a few second of each other. This year will be a new challenge for Danny. I think it was actually good for him to be in Moto2 for a year. Now he returns and he’s grown up and matured and is ready to fight, and that’s good.”
Kent, too is looking forward to the 2014 season and is already comfortable on the Husqvarna FR 250 GP. “I really like the bike because it stands out for speed. It has very powerful acceleration, Kent says. “There will be riders who feel better with another type of bike, or who like to have a lot of grip on the corners, but I am personally very pleased with y machine. I know we can win races.”
Kent, 20, from Chippenham in the south of England finished runner-up in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in 2010 and won a place in the 125cc class of MotoGP in 2011, the last season for 125s, where he finished eleventh overall. In 2012 he raced in the Red Bull KTM Ajo factory team in Moto3 and picked up wins in Motegi and Valencia and a podium finish in Assen. He finished in fourth place overall before moving up to Moto2 in 2013.
Ajo also underlined that as far as the factory team is concerned, his goal was to always improve on everything they do and that they take their progress race by race.
Looking forward to Qatar, Ajo said: “Technically, its is not that different, even under the lights, but there are subtle differences – like the track temperature at night. And there are some elements, like the shadows, that the riders have to be accustomed to. It’s also a completely different. We are usually racing in the middle of the day but in Qatar, our practice sessions are at night and also the race.”
2014 Moto3 World Championship Calendar
March 23: Round 1 – Qatar (Losail)
April 13: Round 2 – Circuit of the Americas
April 27: Round 3 – Argentina
May 4: Round 4 – Spain (Jerez)
May 18: Round 5 – France (Le Mans)
June 1: Round 6 – Italy (Mugello)
June 15: Round 7 – Catalunya (Barcelona)
June 28: Round 8 – Netherlands (Assen)
July 13: Round 8 – Germany (Sachsenring)
August 10: Round 9 – Indianapolis
August 17: Round 10 – Czech Republic (Brno)
August 31: Round 11 – Great Britain (Silverstone)
September 14: Round 12 – San Marino (Misano)
September 28: Round 13 – Spain (Aragon)
October 12: round 14 – Japan (Motegi)
October 19: Round 15 – Australia (Phillip Island)
October 26: Round 16 – Malaysia (Sepang)
November 9: Round 17 – Spain (Valencia)