Red Bull KTM's hero Hiroshi Aoyama dominated Saturday's 250 cc qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix and stormed to his first pole position of the year. Aoyama's top performance underlined how comfortable he is here in Malaysia where he won last year's 250 cc race on the fast and challenging Sepang track, Kallio on front row for Sunday's Malaysian GP.
Aoyama's team-mate Mika Kallio was also hoping to fight for pole position, but ran into engine trouble on his number one bike early in Saturday's crucial afternoon session and had to continue on his second machine. Even though his spare bike was not set up to perfection, the 25-year-old Finn still managed to secure a front row starting position and is now also confident to be part of the battle for victory in Sunday's GP.
Team determination to finish on high note. The good news came at a difficult time for Aoyama and his KTM crew, as the Austrian manufacturer has just this week announced its official withdrawal from the 250 cc world championship at the end of this season.
Aoyama's strong showing on the track and the obvious determination of him and his team is an indication that they want to finish this racing year on a high note.
KTM withdrawal from 250 cc in 2009 disappointing but understandable, Bartol says. Harald Bartol, the team's technical director, commenting on the company announcement said: 'Today's 250 cc practice session showed that we are on the right way with the development of our bike, and that we can be seriously competitive with our young project. It is sad for all of us that this has to come to an end. But at the same time, the decision is understandable considering the fact that the future of the 250 cc category, which was supposed to live on until 2014 when KTM first joined, was cut back to just two years. A longer period of time would have given our project more chance to succeed against an opponent with many years of valuable experience, and it would have given the company and our sponsors the exposure they deserve.'
What the riders said after Saturday's qualifying. Hiroshi Aoyama (Red Bull KTM 250 - first in 2.06,893). 'We will still try some more things in tomorrow's warm-up session, but all in all, my feeling with the bike is great. The chassis set-up is good, our tyre choice seems to be right, so all in all, I am very comfortable and confident. I have good memories from this track, as I won last year's race here at Sepang, and I hope that I can put the bad luck that hit us in recent races behind me and turn things around with a success in the race. There are only two races left for Mika and me with KTM, so I truly hope we can make the best out these two opportunities.' of the company's decision to quit the 250 cc class, Aoyama said: 'I've been working with KTM for three years now, and it has been a very good experience for me. Together, we managed to improve the bike, we won races, and I believe we have been competitive despite Aprilia having so many more years of experience in this class. Today, we proved the performance of this bike once again, and it's a pity that we won't be able to run it in next year's world championship!'