The 2017 MotoGP season will be the first season that Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will compete in the world championship series. The bike was really given its debut at the 2016 season finale at the weekend, the Gran premio Motul de la Communitant Valecnaiana, at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain.
Kallio rode the KTM on its MotoGP debutbut suffered an electrical issue amongst others
Test rider for KTM, Mika Kallio made his return to the MotoGP after six years for the race, aboard the KTM. He was off the pace as expected in the build up to the race, but he gradually reduced the gap between those and the competition. He qualified in 20th, he had three riders behind him on it’s first grid. The race got underway and Kallio was able to put the bike through its paces before unfortunately he had to retire early.
Just 11 laps into the race, the bike developed an electrical issue, this led to it losing power and therefore Kallio struggled with the drive. Several laps later, he lost the traction control and this meant the Michelin tyres wore out too quick. After the loss of another sensor, Kallio had no choice but to call it a day.
KTM did not reach their minimum goal
Kallio, who became a father to his new little girl, as his wife gave birth on day two of the meeting, admitted that the race “did leave a bitter taste” in his mouth. He admitted that they did not reach their “minimum goal which was to finish the race”. He knew that before the season finale, they were “not quite ready with the technical side” and that there was every potential of the outcome happening.
He described the problems they “encountered” as “peculiar in the sense that [they] have over 10,000 km of testing behind [them], and this has never happened before”, but said, “Of course in the race these one euro sensors blew out”. Not completely bothered by the race ending early for him he felt they got a “few good laps to gain valuable information about the functioning of the bike in the later stages of the race”. He did know that it “would’ve been nice to see what we could achieve at our best”; he thought that the “beginning was reasonable and felt good”.
Knowing he did what he could, and that it “does no good to worry about these things” he mentioned how he couldn’t help the faults they encountered. He said, “It was important to see that we can race in the same league as the others, and the next stage is to approach an average performance before raising our goals”.
Kallio proud of the KTM journey so far
Kallio described how “a year is a short period of time in motorsports” and that you “can’t build a perfect bike in that timeframe”. He feels they need “at least another year of testing and development to approach the best”, and that they are “very much behind the top garages” however he knows in theirs they “have the required resources and the quality factors”.
He praised the crew saying, “Everyone has the motivation to work meticulously”; after meeting the owners at the season finale he got the impression from them that “succeeding in motorsports is very important to them”. The new father said, “It is a privilege to be involved with a group like this”.
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders to take the reins at KTM
Now next year, it won’t be Kallio racing the bike, but Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, who announced closer to the start of the season that they had signed to join the Austrian team; after all, everyone wanted that factory ride. This meant that the 2016 MotoGP season finale meant the end of the era for the two riders at their current team.
Smith had been riding with Tech 3 for six years, and Pol Espargaro joined them three years ago when he progressed from the Moto2. Both riders were hoping to go out on a high, Pol definitely succeeded as he finished the Valencia GP as the top independent team rider, in sixth position. Had he finished higher, he had the chance of stealing the independent team championship title from LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow who crashed out.
Smith, who is still overcoming injuries sustained in an incident at an endurance event before his home round at Silverstone, where he damaged ligaments in his knee, has worked hard to return for the final four rounds; he finished his final race in ninth.
Pol fended off his brother at their final races with their teams
Pol qualified in sixth and Smith in tenth, after a great start from the two, Pol settled in in seventh where he found himself battling with his brother Aleix, also on his final race for his team, Team Suzuki Ecstar. He had to work hard to keep him at bay, and as they pushed each other on, they were able to catch Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
On the penultimate lap, Pol was on Dovizioso’s tail and he stuck with him waiting for the right moment to pounce. He got a great drive out of turn 14 and was able to cross the line just 0.039 seconds ahead of the Italian; a great end to his term with the French team.
Smith remained consistent to achieve a double top 10
Consistency was the key for Smith who benefited from riders falling ahead of him. He lapped the Spanish circuit, enduring the pain, and when he crossed the line it resulted in a double top 10 finish for his team; a great way to thank them.
Pol had a positive end to his time with Tech 3
Pol spoke of how it was hid “last race in black and green for Yamaha” and that the result in Valencia “marks a positive end to [his] team with Tech 3”. He feels that the sixth place finish will keep up his and his team’s “morale up over the winter break” and he that it was a “good way to end [their] journey together”.
Discussing the final round in Valencia, he thought the opening laps proved to be “crucial” and he felt they “lost a lot of time there”. He found that his “rhythm was quite similar to the pace of the factory guys” that were in front of them. Discussing his brother as competition, he was aware that Aleix was behind him but he was “never sure if he was struggling to stay with [Pol], or whether he wanted to overtake”, either way he was able to keep “him behind” which he felt meant this “allowed [them] to catch Dovi”. He then said that the Italian rider “acted as a barrier” between Pol and his brother, an opportunity he “made the most of”.
Pol grateful to the French team for a lot
The Spaniard said that they “concluded the season as it began” which was “in the top independent rider position”, and said that “even if it has been a challenging year at times” which led to them being unable to “secure the best satellite placement in standings in the end”. He knew however that they always did their best and he said, “I have to thank the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team for giving their all in the years that they have worked together”. He also wanted to thank them for teaching him “how to ride a MotoGP bike”.
Reminiscing he said they have “shared some happy moments and some not so great ones”. He felt their “first year was excellent” and that it was followed by a “tough second one” however he spoke of how in 2016 they have “tried to handle the situations as best” as they could. Again, he displayed his gratitude saying, “I have to say thanks to everyone in the team for their work in the past three years, and I will take a lot of memories of Tech3 away with me.”
Smith admitted the Valencia GP was tricky
Smith described the final round in Valencia as a “tricky race”, one in which he gave his all, and he thought that “to finish ninth is quite a positive way to end the season after what [they’ve] been through”. He admitted they have “never really found a solution” to the issues that he has had “throughout the weekend” even though he said they “tried everything” that they possibly could; he felt for the race that they definitely “had the best set up”.
When the race started he “pushed hard to try to stay with the Espargaro brothers and Cal”. He said that it “looked that Pol had a bit more pace” and this was visible “especially in the second quarter of the Grand Prix” but he thought it was unfortunate that he “wasn’t able to stay with him”. Admitting his aim would have been “ambitious”, he was “hoping to fight with Pol in [their] final race with the team”. He spoke of how “at the midpoint Crutchlow fell” and so after that he knew it was a matter of “finding as much rhythm as possible” on his own; he knew he had “around a ten second gap back to P10” and that “Pol and Aleix were out of reach”.
Smith’s road to recovery
Smith spoke of how his “main objective was to try to recover as much as possible as Valencia”, doing this he felt would allow them to “get close to where [they] expect to be”; this was something he felt they “achieved with a solid top 10”.
Expressing his gratitude for the past six years, he said, “I’d like to give a big thanks to the entire Tech 3 team for all of their work in the past four years in MotoGP and two additional years before that in Moto2.” He went on to say, “I wish the guys the very best with the new riders for the 2017 season and I’ll come and say bonjour again in the future.”