‘Super’ Mario Aji is Indonesia’s newest world championship rider with high hopes from his nation.
Mario Aji joins the Moto3 class for the 2022 season with a strong following from his country of Indonesia, eager fans across the nation are desperate to see their countryman rise to the top in the lightweight class. Aji’s arrival to the series means there is no doubt that this years Mandalika Grand Prix will be a sell-out event with tens of thousands of fans desperate to catch a glimpse of their hero.
Aji’s age is a rarity as an Indonesian rider, many riders who make it to Grand Prix from the country are already mid-way through their 20’s and have etched into the ‘older’ side of the grid due to poor race tracks in Indonesia and a lack of support system/dieticians/training etc for Indonesian riders at a young age, this means that by the time they reach the European championships they are at a disadvantage to their competition who’ve had the privilege of grassroots racing and competing on Grand Prix circuits from the age of 10. For example ex-Red Bull Rookie Gerry Salim raced in the rookies series at 21 years old against riders as young as 13, at just 17 years old Mario already has a huge advantage over his countrymen who have raced in the class previously.
The youngster made his Moto3 World Championship debut this year at Misano and impressed over in the Moto3 Junior World Championship bagging a pole position start at Catalunya before battling for victory in both races, unfortunately losing out due to crashes of other riders and typical Moto3 last lap scraps demoting him down the order.
Mario came from humble beginnings, the polite, respectful and humble rider from Madiun was brought into racing by his father who is his greatest reference and starting point to racing, his father himself was also a racer and was eager to see his son follow in his footsteps. Mario’s first bike was purchased by his father and sparked the interest in riding and eventually racing, he would train almost daily and eventually entered into local Motocross races and championships. Recently his father passed away and Mario continues to race with his father as his greatest motivation.
‘Super Mario’ as he is nicknamed, much like the Italian plumber.
He would take home the national 50cc title in 2014 before stepping onto a 65cc in 2015 and coming third before repeating the feat again in 2016, for 2017 the change to tarmac was made and he would race a Honda NSF250R in a talent cup scoring multiple podium finishes.
The decision was made to move to tarmac full time at this point and in 2018 he competed in the highly competitive Asia Road Racing Championship in the Asia Production 250cc class aboard a Honda CBR250RR, Mario was instantly fast despite having very limited knowledge of the tracks he was racing, he came away with P6 overall and 6 podiums in 12 races, a flurry of four consecutive DNF’s meant he missed out on battling for the title but he had proven he had extreme talent and pace which resulted in him being selected for the 2019 Red Bull Rookies season, the championship aims to bring out the strongest, most talented young riders and help them to gain experience racing against the fastest young riders on offer on Grand Prix tracks.
2019 would be an impressive rookie season for the Indonesian who took home a best finish of P5 with P16 overall, a result which really didn’t reflect the speed he was showing as he was forced to miss four races due to problems with his visa, he remained in the Red Bull Rookies in 2020 and was called up to race for the Astra Honda Racing Team, a team backed by Honda which runs as a way to help Indonesian riders make their way into the world championship, he competed for them in the FIM CEV.
Mario bearing the Indonesian flag on his arms, mudguard and helmet.
His rookie FIM CEV season once again was strong with a best result of P6 in a class where the skill level is higher than the Red Bull Rookies, over in said rookies he was in his second season and returned to tracks he knew better with experience, data and laps under his belt, this showed in his results as he took a podium at Valencia alongside P11 in the championship.
In 2021 he showed glances of talent with consistent top 10’s and top 5’s in the Red Bull Rookies and FIM CEV, however a lack of luck meant he suffered numerous DNF’s and failed to finish inside of the top 10 in either championship, despite this he did pick up pole position at Catalunya in the FIM CEV and has proven he has what it takes to battle with the best riders in the world, with his incredible fan base backing him going into the 2022 season with the Asia Talent Team who took Ai Ogura to P3 in 2020, there’s no doubt he’s one to watch.
Featured images – FIM CEV / Gold & Goose – Red Bull