Ángel Nieto Team rider Albert Arenas looks back on the first win of his Grand Prix career last weekend in the Moto3 class in France.
How does it feel to be a Grand Prix winner?
To be honest, it is still something incredible, I’m still taking it all in. It feels like payback, a really nice payback, for a difficult start to the season. The injury in Qatar, in the warm-up, held up the progress we were making and our adaptation to the bike. Little by little we have got up to speed but things weren’t working out perfectly. However, we didn’t stop believing, we kept working hard. At Le Mans everything came together, we did a good job and the result gave us a lot of satisfaction and a lot of strength for the future.
You finished the race thinking you had your first podium in second place, but when you got back in to parc fermé you found out that you’d actually won…
To get on the podium was already incredible. We spent the whole race in the front group, always in a good position. On the last lap I was back to fourth, chasing third when suddenly the two lead riders went down. I managed to dodge them and crossed the line in second but at the end of the celebration lap I came into parc fermé and saw that the winner’s spot was still vacant. It was even more exciting, an amazing surprise when I saw it from way back. I was the last one back in and I thought, “They’ll have to switch the bikes around, they’ve got mixed up!” But no, victory was mine. Once back home and with a bit more calm I was able to watch the race back. Penalties happen in racing; the rules are the same for everybody, we did our best and we got our reward.
It had been a good weekend right from Friday…
Yes, we started the first day with a good method. Our position didn’t stand us out but we knew we had a consistent pace. We just needed to put a fast lap in and we managed fifth place on the grid. The bike was working well, we were all confident and there was a positive atmosphere in the garage. On Sunday the warm-up went well and we knew we had done our homework. All that was left was to go out there, enjoy the race and do the best job possible.
How important were the improvements from KTM in this win?
To be honest we did get some updates in France – but not just us, that was all the KTM riders. Le Mans is a circuit where the difference in engines is not so noticeable. At Mugello, with a longer straight, we will see the potential of the bike and I am sure these updates will help. We have to be very grateful to KTM, who have not stopped working.
What can we expect from Albert Arenas from now on?
I am an optimistic and ambitious rider and I spent the winter preparing to fight for wins. But then I thought to myself, “I’ve never been in this situation before, surely you can’t be not even in the fight in 2017 and then just come here and win in 2018.” I knew that we had to take it step by step; firstly get into the points and then move on to fighting for the top ten and then gradually consolidate in the front group. That was the objective at Le Mans. We had a little luck there but we did a good job and that allowed us to be the in the right place to be lucky. At Mugello we will go out with the same mentality, and if I feel strong there will be a moment when I take that step and have the confidence to move forward again.
Are you taking even a glimpse right now at the championship standings?
So far I haven’t looked, I have had other things to focus on, and that will continue to be the case for now, it is not the time to start looking at the championship. I have to focus on improving as a rider and being competitive so that later down the line we can think about our position in the championship. We have to keep our feet on the ground and try to be strong and consistent.
Finally we can’t forget a special guest at your first, Mike Wazowski…
Yes! Mike Wazowski was with me for my first Grand Prix win, which is a but surreal but he brought me good luck. It all happened because my helmet sponsor HJC were sponsoring the Grand Prix and even last year they made a special edition helmet. This year they asked me if I liked the design, which included the character from Monsters Inc., and of course I liked it and wanted to wear it. It is a helmet I will keep and hold dear.
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