A manufacturer who have experienced much success, and who are already familiar with competing at world class level are taking on a new venture. The Austrian company launched the new RC16 that made its debut in its new class, the MotoGP.
KTM already debuted in the MotoGP class
The RC16 was already previously showcased in October, and made its racing debut as a wildcard entry with Mika Kalio at the reigns at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg during the 2016 season. Unfortunately, a cheap and easily replaced part failed on the day causing the rider, who became a father that weekend, to retire from the race early to everyone’s disappointment.
It was announced towards the beginning of the season that British rider Bradley Smith would be making the move from Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to the factory setup. Not long after, his teammate with the French team confirmed he would also be undertaking the challenges the new project would present.
The KTM has been through rigorous testing with various riders and since the 2016 was drawn to a conclusion in Valencia, the new pilots, Smith and Espargaro have since completed three official tests on their new machinery. Both were present at the team presentation at KTM Motorsport Headquarters in Munderfing, Ausrtria.
KTM expanding to race across all three classes
Joining the new MotoGP team was the rest of the KTM tribe. Not only will the manufacturer be taking on the MotoGP tribe, the team, that have been very successful in the Moto3 category, will also be expanding into the Moto2 category as well.
The 600cc class, that run all run with the Honda engine, will be competing with a KTM chassis with 2016 Moto3 champion Brad Binder at the reigns. He will be joined by Miguel Oliveira who will be returning to the team after a year in the Moto2 category with Leopard Racing alongside Danny Kent.
Lining up on the Red Bull KTM RC250 GP will be Italian rider Niccolo Antonelli and Austrian rider Bo Bendsneyder who will remain with the team after completing his rookie year. Under the watchful eye of Aki Ajo, the youngsters are sure to be competitive from the get go, and hoping to continue with their championship winning ways.
The KTM bikes unveiled in their new modern livery
KTM’s contribution to the MotoGP was presented in its new livery. A modern take on the Red Bull logo is spread across the full fairing that is backed with the Australian flag colours; it is mainly black with the orange helping the bike to not only stand out but to be recognised as the traditional colours.
Speaking at the presentation was KTM CEO, Stefan Pierer, KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer, Red Bul Motorsport Manager Thomas Uberall, MotoGP Team Manager Mike Leitner, Moto2/Moto3 Team Manager Aki Ajo, along with the riders Smith, Espargaro, Binder, Oliveira, Antonelli, and Bendsneyder.
Stefan Beirer discusses reasons for new project
Discussing why they decided to participate in the MotoGP, Stefan Pierer confirmed that the idea came to them “from the market”, as he talked about how three years ago they “overtook [their] competitor BMW in terms of sales”, which in turn meant they “became the third biggest manufacturer of sports motorcycles in the world”. As a result, he spoke of how Hubert Trunkenpolz, KTM CSO, then said, “Now we have to got to MotoGP”, and he promised to support with additional sales.
Stefan then continued to explain how he spoke to Pit who then “set up a perfect program”. He spoke of how Pit’s “priority was to set up the infrastructure here with all the know-how and all the people”. He said, “I think it’s the benchmark worldwide and with this three year program we did our homework and now it’s getting real.”
Pit Beirer talks about the challenges of the MotoGP
Pit Beirer spoke of how they are “very experienced in racing” however he knows that “to enter at this level of MotoGP is another dimension for the whole company”. Explaining how they “love pressure because [they] are racers” he feels it is “nothing special for [them] to handle”.
He described the time between starting the project as “an adventure and a huge effort by the whole company” and he went on to thank everyone involved. He felt that it would not have been possible had it not been for “the other disciplines” they have raced previously.
Their new venture to him he described as “a dream come true”, and explained how they have “built up young riders in all the disciplines” and that they the “stick with them through good times and bad”. He reflected on how he felt it was “sad “ that they “nurtured many good young riders in the Red Bull Rookies who could go to Moto3, but then it was somehow horrible to lose them in Moto2”. He couldn’t imagine losing the likes of their World Champion, Brad Binder. He said, “Now we are doing Moto2 we have closed the gap, so our kids can stay with us through their whole career and all the classes”.
Leitner on the journey so far
Leitner exclaimed how he was “super happy” to share in the presentation as a way of marking the start of the project. After speaking about experiencing “issues after Valencia”, he thinks that the results that they have “seen since Sepang is nice”. He explained how they “tried to fix them, and the designers and everyone in the company worked very hard”. As a result he feels they “went in the right direction” and that the “riders feel the same”; still he thinks there are “many challenges”.
Leiter said, “The most important thing is that we keep the two boys (Smith and Espargaro) motivated and that we can deliver what they feel is good for the lap times and with their feeling on the bike”. He spoke of how that is their “main goal” and that everyone there was “working to achieve that”.
Espargaro describes the KTM as beautiful
Pol Espargaro described riding the RC16 as “beautiful”, and that “riding the bike is beautiful” also. He said, “It feels really good” and although “KTM is very new in MotoGP compared to the other brands” he felt that they are “making huge steps forward” and that they “are improving”.
Speaking about his experience with the manufacturer so far he thinks that “every time [they] jump on the bike [they] are closer to the others” and that is has been “great to see the evolution”. He expressed his gratitude to his new team saying, “I just want to say thanks to KTM for putting their trust in me and this project.”
Smith feels dreams have come true
Smith described how to him that his experience so far is “something that you have always wished for and that you’ve worked for throughout your career”. He explained how “finally when you get the opportunity” he highlighted that there is “the pressure that goes with it”, however he said he has “embraced the opportunity”.
He knows that he, his new teammate Pol, and all the team “will be working incredibly hard”. He explained how they have been “busy with the winter tests” and that this was “just the beginning”. Looking forward to the 2017 season he said he is “excited to see what 2017 brings” and confirmed that he is back to full fitness after he seriously injured ligaments in his knee after an endurance event midway through the 2016 season.
Ajo on the plans for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams
Ajo spoke of how they are all “so proud to be part of this project” which he described as “something incredible”. He explained how it is “difficult after a good season” as he knows there are “very high expectations after such good results last year”. He said, “We need to keep our feet on the ground because every season is different.”
Discussing the “great project in Moto2” he talked about how they “have to star from zero”. Although he said it is their “target” for the 2017 season, he knows that they “cannot expect to start winning races immediately”.
Reflecting on how they have “raced in Moto3 with KTM for many years” he thinks that it has been “great every year” as he knows they are “always close and fighting for the title”. So this year he said they will “try to do the same”. Laughing with his Moto3 riders he said, “No pressure boys”. Praising his Moto2 team he said, “We have such great riders so our targets need to be very high.