The KTM Blog paid a visit to the busy Ajo workshop just outside of Barcelona as the MotoGP season gets ready for launch …
There is a spooky silence around the factory. Assembly lines are dormant. Machinery that once clanked is motionless. Save for a security guard there is not a soul to be seen. In one enclave of the site of the former Derbi facility around 10km outside of Barcelona however there is a frantic bustle of activity. The Catalan manufacturer ceased production here and closed their doors to this facility almost twelve months ago but the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, marshalled and cajoled by Aki Ajo, have since made one of the antiquated old buildings their home.
“It is great for logistics”, says chief mechanic Tomas Foncea. “Before the team was located in Finland, which is quite a long way, but here we have quite a few tracks in a 1000km radius.”
The Red Bull truck juts out of one of the garage areas and Tomas guides us inside the workshop with its low ceilings and musty, antiquated interiors. Team staff are busy unloading (the white semi-articulated unit next to the Red Bull trailer bearing material with Husqvarna labelling) and the contents litter the floor as if the guts of the trucks have been spilled. Here the pristine appearance of a Moto3 team box is broken down; the panelling, racks, storage and even race-car style bucket seats for the riders lay in wait.
The first impression of the workshop is of a crowded, temporary and dated edifice. In the relentless calendar of pre-season tests the crew have already been extremely busy, and as we pick up one of the many feather-light unpainted carbon fairings neatly ordered in a row we are reminded that Moto3 is on the brink of final preparations for the eighteen round MotoGP Championship ahead.
“The building is old and a bit small but it is practical and doesn’t cost so much”, says Tomas who also comments that around 30 people of different nationalities are working here at one time or another. “We tend to use this place as a base when the team isn’t out on the road. Obviously you need somewhere to re-stock and re-organise.”
The workshop has seen former glories as the centrum for the Derbi race team (with whom current KTM test rider and rider mentor Joan Olive once competed) and now it is the abode to another giant of the smaller cylinder class. You only have to stick your head into Aki Ajo’s vacant office to see the collection of trophies and champagne bottles to know that this is a serious and decorated operation.
Jack Miller – new star of the team and undisputed leader through the 2014 tests – wanders in for a chat and some photos. We’ll head off for some motocross riding shortly for a separate Blog story but first he jokes and gossips with various team members and the atmosphere is one of purposeful efficiency but mixed with a laidback appreciation of the job, sport and the scene.
A works KTM RC 250 GPs is being dismantled in one of the open work bays and just alongside is a storage annex full of spares and tyres. At the back of the main area a room houses spare race leathers and other bits-and-bobs. Compared to the race HQ in Munderfing, just down the road from Mattighofen in Austria, the workshop here is a different entity. It is not a space that screams ‘cutting edge engineering’ but retains another worldly and valuable side of racing; that of history and elbow grease and a sensation that behind the glossy TV pictures and glamour of Grand Prix it is the hard work and dedication that really counts for the ultimate prize.