Axel Pons: “I know I have to make sacrifices to achieve my goals”
Pons Racing has published an in-depth interview with Axel Pons ahead of the Catalunya GP this weekend. Unfortunately Axel won’t be able to ride at his home race due to injuries, but he is still optimistic and looks forward to the future.
At just 19 years of age, Axel Pons is one of the youngest riders in the Moto2 class. Starting out as a wild card rider in three 125cc races, Axel got the chance to ride in his father’s 250cc team in the last season of the class. After a horrible crash in the Spanish Championship in 2008 he still had to battle for full fitness in his first season and manage the steep learning curve.
Only one year later he has to start all over again in the demanding Moto2 class and slowly but surely he starts to adapt. Unfortunately he crashed in the last GP at Assen and won’t be able to race at his home Grand Prix this weekend, the most important race of the season for the Barcelona-native.
But in any case, this is not the first obstacle in Axel’s career, a rider who’s used to great comebacks.
So you are not able to race in Montmeló, your home race. How do you feel about that and what does this GP mean to you?
For me the confirmation of these two fractures is a huge disappoinment, because I had big hopes for my home Grand Prix, above all because I though I was able to fight with the best ones. This season for me serves as a confirmation that I can do it and I wanted to achieve a good result as a ThankYou and to give back some of the confidence and the support I received from all the fans since the big crash in Jerez two years ago. It was very important to me to give some of this support back with a good result. At the moment however I have to think about the recovery to be fit again for the race at Sachsenring. But in any case, I will be in Montmelo to support Sergio and my team.
To race in Montmeló means to race at home. It’s only 20 minutes from where I live and I can say that I’ve learned how to ride a bike on that circuit. Therefore I’m very annoyed that I can’t ride there. I’ve grown on that circuit, because I starteted in the Catalan Championship. Additionally, it’s been the first track where I achieved a podium position. It was in the Catalan Championship and later I repeated the podium in the Spanish Championship.
We already had 6 Moto2 races. What are your feelings about it?
It is a very difficult category. One day you can be in the first row and the next you’re in row five before you know it. The laptimes are so close together, with a little error or when you don’t start well or had a bad qualifying, you’re 25th or 26th. There’s very little margin for error, you can say that just 0.3s or 0.4s seconds already mean a gain or loss of 10 to 15 positions.
Is this more stressful than in the 250cc class when you get into qualifying?
It is difficult to manage although at the same time it is much more fun. We are much closer together and you note that equality. I believe that now it is not the mechanics which count so much, but it’s the rider who marks the differences. So when you win the title, it’s really the rider who is in charge.
Does it give you a mental advantage to know that your fellow riders have more or less the same technical package that you have? Last year the difference between an Aprilia RSA and the other bikes was abysmal…
This fact gives you more motivation, because you know that the rider next to you is not going to win against you because his bike runs better or maybe because it goes better in braking. And when he wins it’s because he is better, not because his bike is better. Last year was very difficult, because already before you went out on track you knew that there were ten riders who, only because of the bike, had no chance to win. And it was a very difficult year. Now with these equal bikes you feel much more able to be in front and knowing that from the last one to the first they are all good, they all go fast. There are none of these comparisons anymore when the mechanical side was so different. Here all of them are good, all of them go fast and all of them give the maximum. And in the end the gaps between them are much smaller.
In Mugello, a circuit that is technically very demanding, you classified eighth on the grid. Did that give you an extra push for your confidence?
Yes, clearly. But I believe that all riders can be there, not only me. And the one who works more and is the strongest will be getting there. The one who wants it the most is going to be there. And I really want it a lot.
How do you feel being on the grid amongst people who’ve won titles, are world champions?
It is far better. The best ones are your rivals, so when when you can win or see that you are better than them, the satisfaction is much greater, it’s more than if you were competing somewhere where the level is lower. If you can win against them you feel much stronger.
Do you think that you need to finish more races to get more experience? This one year you didn’t finish two, including one where Pesek crashed into you and another one where you had problems with the bike.
It is clear that I need to get more experience. I’ve only been inthe world championship a little over a year, and I need to finish races in order to improve myself. What you can learn in a race, you can learn in practice. In the end this is where you really learn how to handle the bike, where you can find the limits and learn how to play your cards right.
Are you satisfied with your progress?
I think I can say that I’m pretty satisfied with how things are going. I have a great team behind me which prepares things as good as possible for me, so that the progress goes in the right direction. We’re doing a good job. Sometimes you want to move faster, but sometimes you have to take a step back or you won’t improve. It’s important to continue how we do it now, going step by step and trying to improve. I believe that the results will come.
What are your goals for this season?
For the end of the year my goal is to be regularly between the ten first and if I can get some podium positions, the better. I believe that it is possible toachieve this and it depends how things are progressing before we can think about winning, because in this class it’s like this: one day you are behind and the next one you’re in front. We have to work for that regularity that I mentioned, to always get inside the Top 10, and when it’s possible to achieve more, we will fight for that. And it is important to prepare everything 100%, so that we can fight for the championship next season.
And in general as a rider, what is you goal?
I am here to become a MotoGP champion. I think that it’s the goal for everyone and since I started riding I knew this very clearly. It’s a benchmark on the horizon and we have to find the direct line towards it, trying to make the fewest curves to arrive at that point. Aiming with the viewfinder and then going there directly.
You are in an team with a lot of experience. You know it now from within, but you’ve also always saw it from the outside before. What are your impressions?
For me, although I haven’t been in another team, it’s the best one in the class. The effort that everyone takes, from the mechanics to my father, is incredible. They don’t mess about: if there is something to do, they do it. They all push hard to be what we want to be, world champions.
On your side you also have Sito Pons: he was world champions, has lead world champions to a lot of victories in the championship and he’s your father. obtaining many victories in the World-wide one, although also he is your father. How do you manage with this?
To him I owe my career, everything I achieved and what I will achieve. He has taught me everything and given me all these opportunities. He is my reference point and every advice he gives me I try to apply it on the race track as good as possible, taking everything he tells me as a possibility to improve. As everybody knows, he has a lot of experience in this world. He was world champions twice and additionally he has all those years as a team manager. All this together is worth a lot. And more than anything this is a big help.
On the technical side you work with Santi Mulero who was world champion with your father. How is it working with him?
He knows everything about the bike and has a lot of experience. He offers his ideas, I propose mine and my father his, and between the three of us we try to figure out the best solution. It is a great help to have him and it gives you some extra confidence when you get on the bike with that kind of knowledge by your side. You know the bike was set up by Santi.
How do you get along with Sergio Gadea?
Very well. Between us two we try to give the maximum to both be in front. I think we are doing great work. And knowing that Sergio achieved a podium with his bike gives me extra motivation, because I know that I can also be in front.
And what do you think of the bike?
It works very well and although it seems absurd to say this, it’s the feeling we had since the first day we ever rode it. It’s never been necessary to change too many things. Aside from that the factory Kalex is completely committed to the project. Every day we tried to find new ideas between us all so that the bike gets better. I believe that it is one of best of the Moto2 class. When I am on the track with other riders I can often see how good it goes and what we look for is to continue improving it.
You’re doing the work of factory rider. The information you give goes directly to the engineer who designed it. How do you take this part of your work?
It is a great learning process. You must be more precise and try to know what the bike needs and how to read it, its reactions, being able to explain it and to direct us to the right way. In the end we are the ones who decide if the bike goes this way or that way. Because of that it’s important to have an experienced rider like Sergio who helps in this regard.
Have learned more how to comunicate with the technicians?
That is very important, to know how to communicate what exactly happens with the bike. Because maybe you feel something, but you do not know how to explain it, you do not know how to give the information to the technician who is the one that in the end will try to make that improvement on the bike. After the years you know how to do this and little by little I learn to explain me better. Santi and I know each other good enough, so when I tell them something, he knows what I’m talking about.
Change of subject. You are one of the few, maybe the only rider who combines his work with studying at university.
Yes, I am studying “Business Engineering”, which is basically business management. It is an international class with is held in “La Salle” in Barcelona and frankly it is going very well for me. I’ve already finished the first clas and I’ve passed everything. I am happy that I’m able to combine the two things. I think if you have the opportunity to study, you have to take advantage of it. It takes up some of my time, but I have enough to do both. The day is long and I have time enough to train and study and when I come to the GPs I am only dedicated to racing. During the week I concentrate on studying.
How do you manage to combine it with the race calendar? There are a couple of times with three races in a row.
At university they know that I am racing in the world championship and they always try to help me. If there is a test they change the dates. And it is also good because everything we do in class later is on the internet and then when I return to Barcelona I can make those days up again. I always say that a day is very long and if there is something you want to do, you must do it. And you will find time. From the moment you wake up until you are going to sleep are many hours. I go to class from 8.45 to the 14.00 and I usually go to sleep at 23.00, so you can count how many hours there are. There’s time. Training for two hours and half of the day I have time to study and do other things.
Why do you think it is good to study?
This [racing] does not last all life, even though I would like it to, because I love doing it. But unfortunately it’s not like this. Sooner or later you stop riding and it could always be sooner than you thing because you get injured, who knows? And then, what you do with the rest of your life? With this [studying] I have another option. When I finish racing I will still have more than half of my life left.
You mentioned that an injury can happen. Aside from this last one in Holland you had a very serious one in the CEV at the beginning of your career. How you have overcome this? Can you take something positive from a dramatic experience like this?
What it doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Ever since I can remember I dreamed to become world champions and it’s something I’ve always known very cleary. That injury stopped my progress at the point when I was growing, getting the results in the Spanish Championship and being able to fight for the title. After that, as soon as I could, I got back on the back. It was very quickly, maybe too soon, but I knew that I had to do it if I wanted to ride in the 250cc class of the world championship in the following year. We did what we could. There were people who didn’t want me to get back on a bike, but I set myself a goal and I’m going to fight to achieve it. It’s now something of the past, I have almost no aftereffects of it. I look towards the future and towards what is about to come. And I know that it will be difficult and that I need to be willing to sacrifice things for it.
Source: Pons Racing
Translation by Vroom Magazine.