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Thomas Gradinger: Diary of a national Moto3 season

Thomas Gradinger, a 17 year old apprentice at KTM as an automotive technician, explains the ups, downs and adventures of a national Moto3 season. The Austrian competed in the IDM championship with a KTM RC250R…


Round 1: Lausitzring, Germany, 5th in Race 1, 6th in Race 2 “Practice was not so bad, qualifying also went well, although I didn’t like that track so much. In warm-up I fell off after hitting a bump. Both races were pretty lonely. The first few laps I was able to keep up with the leaders then I lost contact and pretty much ran alone.”

Round 2: Zolder, Belgium, 11th in Race 1, 10th in Race 2 “A new track for me. I had to skip practice on Friday because I couldn’t get free from work. I was not unhappy in qualifying but still quite far behind. Race 1 was complicated because the suspension was too soft, so I could not brake late. Race 2 was tricky because the asphalt varied between being damp and dry. I managed to get better and better but then the race was red-flagged because of a crash.”

Round 3: Oschersleben, Germany, Crash in Race 1, DNF in Race 2 “Qualifying was okay and then in the first race I was running in fifth place close to leading group when I fell on the second lap at the Hotel curve. I was maybe going 10km/h faster than before and didn’t quite have the racing line so I took more lean angle and the front slipped away. In the second race unfortunately the engine stopped because of a valve problem.”

Round 4: Red Bull Ring, Austria, 4th in Race 1, 4th in Race 2 “It was a hot weekend and the first time that everything worked out fine. I started from the front row and could hang on to Karel Hanika and Max Kappler up front. In Race 1 I had a huge front wheel slide in a quick double left, lost some time and then Jonas Geitner overtook me. In Race 2 I was again behind Hanika and Kappler and had another front slide but this one was worse and I had to find my way out of the gravel! I was sixth then but still caught up and finished fourth. KTM Moto3 Technician Wolfgang Felber came over to see us and I appreciated that.”

Round 5: Schleiz, Germany, crash in Race 1, 5th in Race 2 “Schleiz is one of my favourite tracks with a great atmosphere and lots of spectators. Practice did not go so smoothly and then I fluffed the start for the first race and lost a few places. I began regaining ground but then high-sided out of the last turn. The second race went really well and I hung on to grab a top five. I clocked the third fastest time although it was raining and I did not have such a good feeling. Fifth was OK though.”

Round 6: Sachsenring, Germany, 2nd in Race 1, crash in Race 2 “I arrived with mixed feelings as the track really doesn’t suit me. There was no Friday practice but qualifying on Saturday went well despite a rear-brake problem in the second session. My start wasn’t great for Race 1 so I had to give it everything. I passed three people and another two went down, so I finished second. That was a great fight. In the second race I was charging in a group of five for 4th place, but I did not come through. I threw it away at the Omega corner. A little bit too fast and too narrow in so the front wheel folded.”

Round 7: Hockenheim, Germany, crash in Race 1, 3rd in Race 2 “I practice I went wide and touched a wet curb and that threw me off. I was OK but the swing arm was bent and we broke two rims so it was an expensive crash. The first race was stopped and for the restart I didn’t get away well and had to catch up, then somebody shut the door on me and I went down harmlessly and picked the bike up straight away. I made a few places back but then the front wheel slid away in the braking zone for the Sachs-curve. The second race was a cool fight. I was part of a quartet until Aris Michail stopped. On the last lap I pushed to the maximum so Geitner could not overtake any more. I was glad to finish third and step on the rostrum. Great feeling.”

Season finale in Spain We decided to skip the last IDM round at the Lausitzring, preferring to do the two Moto3 races in Spain. It will be a lot warmer there! Finally, I want to thank my dad Alois and my mechanics Marcel Kurt Alois and Ronny Wunderlich, without them I would not have arrived this far. We get along extremely well, the bike was continually high performing and they always stayed cool and easy…even if the KTM came back a little crushed now and again!

Next year I want to ride the European Championship, which Dorna wants to expand with races in Spain, Austria, Germany and Portugal. This will be tough because the front runners go flat out almost at Grand Prix level. I’ll probably be looking for places between 20th and 30th and with luck sometimes in the points. But I will learn a lot more than in the IDM.

At KTM, I am now in the third year of my apprenticeship. I consider myself really lucky to be trained at Mattighofen. I’ve learned a lot, especially in the development department. Currently I’m taking courses in turning and milling. I also worked on the cut-away model of the 1290 Super Duke R. A week before Schleiz, I was asked to go to Spain to test the 390 Duke for next years ‘ADAC Junior Cup powered by KTM’. With Andy Vogt from WP suspension we developed a good setting for 2014. The bike is very easy to ride and went better and better. Hannes Meier and Jeremy McWilliams were also there. This new KTM cup for youngsters next year is sure to be a success.”

photos by Buenos Dias

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