Reflections: Luis Salom's final Grand Prix podium
Following Moto2 rider Luis Salom's passing in Barcelona on Friday, Jamie Klein shares his memories of an emotional second place finish for the Spaniard in the 2016 season-opener in Qatar.
Although I didn’t know Luis Salom personally, I was fortunate enough to be present in Qatar a few months ago when he scored what would be the final podium finish of his Grand Prix career.
It was a result that not only served as a timely reminder of his speed and tenacity, but also revealed a fascinating insight into the Spaniard's character.
His second-place finish in the Moto2 season-opener admittedly came in odd circumstances, as seven of the top eight riders on the grid jumped the start of a chaotic race.
The resulting raft of penalties paved the way for Salom’s rise from P17 on the grid to a place on the rostrum that was as popular as it was unexpected.
“I didn’t know anything [about the penalties], I was just pushing,” said the SAG rider after the race.
“I only knew that I’d passed five or six guys and that there was a big gap [ahead] to Sandro [Cortese] and Simone [Corsi].
“Then I pushed, pushed, pushed, and I arrived on the last lap to Sandro. I pass him exiting the second corner and I pushed to the maximum to arrive to Simone.
“I prepared perfectly for the last corner, and I got him [on the drag to finish line]," added Salom, who eclipsed Corsi by a scant 0.055s to finish third on the road, which became second once Franco Morbidelli had 20 seconds added to his race time.
Salom continued: "I saw all the team so happy – I didn’t know the position [I had finished in].
“But then on the big screen I see ‘P2’, and then I understand everything!”
"You must try and enjoy riding again"
It was Salom’s first podium finish for nearly two seasons, his last one coming at Mugello in 2014 – his second top-three in the first six races of what had been shaping up to be a promising rookie Moto2 campaign.
But the following race at Catalunya saw the Mallorca-born rider crash out and suffer a hand injury that required surgery, after which he struggled to regain his form.
He was first eclipsed by former Moto3 title rival Maverick Vinales on the other side of the Pons garage, and then by Alex Rins in 2015, Salom managing to finish only 13th in that year’s standings.
And the 24-year-old’s lack of results – especially having been a regular winner in Moto3 – took its toll on his enthusiasm for racing, as he revealed after his Qatar podium in March.
“Yesterday I was speaking with my mum, and she said ‘You must try and enjoy [racing] again’,” recalled an emotional Salom.
“I hadn’t enjoyed the last two years, and also the beginning of this year [in Jerez testing], when I started pushing too hard and I had two big crashes.
“Also here [in testing] I had two big crashes. I was not confident with the bike.
“I want to say thank you to the team for giving me this opportunity to be in Moto2 this year, and thank you to my mother and all my family for always supporting me.”
With his confidence and love of racing seemingly restored, the future all of a sudden appeared to be a lot brighter for Salom prior to the awful crash that took his life.
Rest in peace Luis – you will be missed.
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