After making its MotoGP debut at the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitant Valenciana, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team RC16 was then put through its paces by its new pilots of 2017, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith at the test that took place at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, Valencia, just two days after the season finale.
Mike Kallio rode the KTM on its debut and was able to prove that it was competitive in a race situation; however an electronic fault caused by a cheap a part, forced an early retirement for Kallio on the KTM, with 11 laps remaining.
Smith and Pol Espargaro make KTM debut during Valencia Test
Having their first go of the bike at the two day test was Smith and Espargaro after moving from the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. They spent two days in the sun completing at least 238 laps between them, both experienced a small crash unfortunately in the process; both riders were OK and the bikes can be fixed.
Pol was the fastest out of the two riders on their debut with the KTM, and after finishing 19th on day one where he completed 70 laps, setting his fastest lap on lap 39 with a time of 1:32.613. On day two he was able to improve his fastest time from day one by 0.760 seconds finished the test overall as 17th quickest with a time of 1:31.853 (which came on lap 33/70).
KTM not too far off the pace for a new bike
Smith finished 0.193 seconds behind his teammate on day one in 20th with a time of 1:32.806, he too was able to improve by 0.268 seconds overall and ended up with a fastest time of 1:32.538, but he remained in 20th position. The pace of the KTM remained around two seconds off that set by the quickest man on track, Maverick Vinales making his debut on the Movistar Yamaha. So although there is work to do for the factory team, they are not far off where they need to be.
Smith’s Crew Chief Tom Jojic, who has previously worked with the Brit in Moto2, and who has spent the last three years working in the Moto3 class, revealed that when he joined the MotoGP project that Smith requested that Jojic take his role, and so he made his debut as crew chief to him on day one of testing also; he had previously attended the Misano test after the Brno GP spending three days involved with the bike.
Smith describes his first experience of the KTM
When talking about his first impressions on his future team and bike he said that the “can’t ask for more”; he spoke of how he had been through “two very hard days” and that his “head wants to explode”. He “really enjoyed” working with people that found “understand” and who “can implement what [he] is trying to achieve”, and that they are able to “change things and improve things” which he described as “exciting”.
He explained how over the last two days of testing their “main focus” has consisted of “information gathering from an electronics point of view”, or looking at the aspect of “gearbox and gearing" so they can be “aware which gear gets the maximum power from the engine at the right moment”.
Although he knows that these things are “not basic stuff”, he knows that it is “far away from working on chassis settings and suspension”. He said, “We’re really at the beginning of our working process” and now he believes that that what they have achieved “gives direction for where [they] want to go”.
Team Manager happy with their performance under pressure
Manager of the Red Bull KTM factory racing team, Mike Leitner said they were “happy” as this was the first time they “had to perform under pressure” and so he said there were “no excuses when the others are here”. He said that there are “no question marks” and that “everything is clear” and knowing where they are and what they have to do is “important for the next steps”.
He revealed that the “riders’ impression was not so bad” but he said that they “have to make the steps” and to “improve the lap times”. He knows they are “in high competition” and worth the other manufacturers being around for so long and “have so much experience”.
He reported that the riders are “quite happy with the bike’s ability and the braking”, and he knows that “speed is a key factor in MotoGP for every manufacturer” and that a team “cannot pick up in two days what the others have achieved in a whole season”.
Technical Director confirms they know what direction to go
Technical Director for the KTM Factory Racing Team, Sebastian Risse spoke of how they “now know” where they are, what to “expect from the tyres and what not”, and “what the other motorcycles can do and not do”. Now he feels they can “concentrate on what [they] can improve and what is possible to improve”. He revealed that the “biggest point” during the test was “the engine brakes” however he said that that “was not a point that demands a complete rethink”.
He spoke of how they had “input regarding the chassis” and now know how to progress and improve the “development parts for the test in Jerez”. Ahead of the next test he said they have two things to focus on and plan to follow up the impressions made by the two debutants with Kallio “to bring him to a point that he, as [their] test rider, can work on these critical points and can understand them like the [factory] riders”.