Red Bull KTM 250cc stars Mika Kallio and Hiroshi Aoyama mastered treacherous conditions in today's wet Grand Prix of China to score a fantastic double victory for KTM.
It was the second one-two for the Austrian manufacturer in the 250cc category after Aoyama won the German Grand Prix last year ahead of his team-mate.
Pole-sitter Alvaro Bautista had established an early lead, but when the young Spaniard crashed out on the ninth lap of the race, Kallio had a clear track ahead and rode to a comfortable win despite increasing grip problems on the drying tarmac. With two victories and four podium finishes in four races so far, the Finn extended his world championship lead to a massive 21 points. Aoyama, who tried so hard to catch Kallio that he opened up a gap of no less than 13 seconds to Mattia Pasini in third place, celebrated his first podium finish of the year.Mika Kallio (First), "This is better than perfect! In dry conditions, we were a little behind, but the wet track today helped us. But it certainly wasn't an easy task. After the start, I watched the situation for a while and saw that there was quite a difference between me and the other guys around me. They were faster in some sections of the track, and I was faster in others, which made it difficult to overtake. Eventually I managed to get past some of the other riders and took second place."
Kallio took the advantage when Bautista crashed and then had to find his own rhythm in the lead before noticing on his pit board that Aoyama was closing the gap. "When the track dried along the fastest line, it got increasingly difficult to control the bike, and when I saw the chequered flag, I was so happy that I stopped at the pit wall to celebrate with my team," the Finn said.
Kallio said he was aware that he and the team had to continue to score points to maintain the lead in the championship. "We have to stick to our strategy of going for victories where possible, but also to settle for safe points where we don't have a chance to win," Kallio said, dedicating the victory to his team.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Second), "I was only eleventh in practice, and to be able to celebrate my first podium finish today is a fantastic feeling! We made a last-minute adjustment on the starting grid and changed the sprocket because my sixth gear wasn't tall enough for the back straight. This was certainly the right decision for the race and it allowed me to finish safely without putting excessive strain on the engine. This meant that third and fourth gear were a little too long and it took me quite some time to get up to second place. Mika was far gone by that time, but I still pulled out all stops to catch up with him. It was really difficult because the dry line would destroy the tyre, and I didn't get enough grip I the wet sections."
Harald Bartol (Technical Director), "What a fantastic day for us. Every victory is a big step towards the title, and when your main opponent fails to score, it is even more valuable! We knew Mika had something up his sleeve for the race, because when he crashed in final practice, he was on a lightning fast lap that never showed in the time sheets. He had a very good set-up also for the wet, and we adapted a few of his settings to Hiroshi's bike as well, especially the gearing. This turned out to be the golden move. Congratulations to both of them - it simply doesn't get any better!"