KTM will be joining the MotoGP next season and current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will be representing them competing aboard their RC16. So far this season, they have completed four test sessions on their factory bike ahead of their debut including Jerez, Spain in February, Valencia, Spain in March, Brno, Czech Republic in April and most recently they returned to Jerez this month. Also at the test was the Moto3 test team aboard the 250cc KTMs.
Experienced riders testing for the factory team
Currently the Austrian factory team has former MotoGP riders Randy De Puniet and Mika Kallio testing for them. They have managed to experience mixed weather conditions on the RC16 and so they are now contemplating not going to Malaysia for further testing in the heat as the conditions they expected were similar to those in Jerez at the weekend; the air temperature at the Spanish circuit was 30 degrees celsius and the track was 50.
Technical Director Risse positive about significant improvements
Onroad Technical Director Sebastian Risse said that their main focus was to “confirm the development steps” that they felt they made in Brno. He confirmed that the hot conditions, more so on the first day, allowed them “to shed light” on how their “material would work under extreme conditions," as a result of the weather he said they “had no big problems”.
The test at Jerez was a first opportunity for them to run with Michelin tyres, which Risse feels are “very similar to those used in the Grand Prix at Jerez," he said that this allowed them to “work on the setup in different ways”. The Technical Director felt they “saw a significant improvement in lap times compared to those from the earlier tests in spring”.
Vice President Leitner confident in test team
Onroad Vice President for KTM Mike Leitner spoke of how the rider were “very motivated” after making their way to Jerez directly from Brno to continue with testing. De Puniet has not ridden the KTM for a significant time and Leitner felt it was “important” that when riding the RC16 after this period of time that he “noticed a clear improvement”; this in turn further improved their confidence in Kalio as an “extremely good test rider”. Leitner said, “In practical terms, we have saved ourselves a test in Malaysia and this is positive for our development progress.”
De Puniet noticed improvements after returning to testing
De Puniet confirmed Leitner’s claims by saying, “The team has done excellent work and the motorcycle is very much improved.” The French former MotoGP competitor said that the engine, chassis and electronics “have all been more developed”. He feels that after the fourth test in Jerez that they were able to “make further improvements” and to also “put in good lap times” and he claimed that for him “it was the best test so far”. He said, “I enjoyed both days on the bike and I’m ready for Aragon where I will probably ride next.”
Kallio feels KTM test team have made big steps
Kallio has been the main test rider for KTM and has done a lot of work with the team on the RC16. A lot of his racing career has been spent with the Austrian manufacturer as after joining them in the world championship in 2003 on the 125cc it was not long before he was winning with them and he claimed the title consecutively in 2005 and 2006.The following season he progressed to the 250cc class and in 2008 finished third in the championship. In 2009 he entered the MotoGP and claimed “Rookie of the Year” however after a ‘protracted shoulder injury’ he joined the Moto2 (600cc class that replaced the 250cc class in 2010), competing since 2011; his best result was finishing second in the championship in 2014.
He feels the test days from Brno and Jerez were “very productive for the team” and said that as a rider he is “very happy about the advancements” that they have worked on together. The Finnish rider said, “The bike behaves on track more and more as I would like it to do.” He mentioned that previously “it wasn’t easy” for the team to “take big steps in the past couple of months” but after the positive outcomes from the last two tests he thinks it “makes it all the more important that the lap times are now coming”. He thinks this is beneficial for the team’s motivation and that they have “made the decisive further development just at the right time”.
More testing on the horizon for KTM
Shortly he said, the KTM team will “test (ourselves) against the competition” as they are set to debut at the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg on August 14th this year. The team are now currently “carrying out intensive development" on the KTM RC16 in their new facility in Munderfing, Austria according to the official MotoGP website. They are scheduled to return to testing in Italy in a fortnight on a new circuit with a new test rider.