KTM OFF TO A FAST START
Austrian manufacturer impresses first time out on track with rivals at new Red Bull ring
Maybe Bradley Smith won’t be just making up the numbers next year as he joins the new KTM Motogp team. The firm rolled out their RC16 at the Red Bull Ring in Austria to take part in a test alongside full factory teams. And the bike performed admirably, shocking many of the established stars. In the hands of test riders Alex Hofmann, Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi it lapped at about two seconds off the fastest time. The team reckons it will close the gap when it races as a wild card at the final round of 2016.
KTM have stunned the Motogp paddock with the rapid development and speed of their new RC16 on its first ever venture on track alongside its 2017 rivals, as Mika Kallio, Alex Hofmann and Thomas Luthi joined a two-day private test at Red Bull Ring last week.
Taking to a track where the trio have admittedly tested at in the past, they were nonetheless only 2.5 seconds off the pace of the fastest man, Ducati rider Andrea Iannone over the course of the two days around their home circuit – a gap that project boss Pit Beirer says is far better than expected.
“Finally the day has arrived we can measure ourselves directly against our competitors and it was a great feeling. But in principle we are here to continue to improve and we can see clearly that everything is going according to plan.
“Naturally we’re somewhat slower than the absolute top guys at this point, but the difference is not dramatic and we can see where we have to improve. The fact that we already have our two factory riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró under contract for the next two years already makes me feel very confident lap time-wise.”
Moreover, while the test was an important opportunity for the firm to continue to refine their RC16 machine, technical director Sebastian Risse confessed afterwards that they changed how they worked slightly when presented with the opportunity to measure themselves against their opposition.
“Technically we didn’t make as many steps forward, but we made a lot of progress with the lap times. We moved between a deficit of between one-and-a-half and two seconds on both days, which for me was actually less than expected.
“The next development step will be a big one and we will aim to cleanly integrate all of our experiences into a completely new bike. I hope that with this bike, and the continuous updates we’ll be better equipped for our wild card at the last race of the year.”
And while the team may be new to Motogp, the bike showed impressive top speed matching the Yamahas and Suzukis, with Honda-mounted Cal Crutchlow revealing to MCN that he was unable to stay in the slipstream of Luthi on the back straight. The bike also ran without any technical failures during the test.
One man perfectly equipped to measure the progress of the KTM is test rider Alex Hofmann. The most experienced of their stable of test riders, the German says they’ve made a ‘perfect start’ to the project so far.
“We have to be honest and say that in this short time we have made a perfect start to the Motogp project. The laps I put in on the KTM RC16 on the morn- ing of the second day were awesome. The motorcycle is absolutely on the right track. We can be really proud of this first comparison considering that the bike was only rolled out nine months ago.”
Kallio confirms Valencia wild card
Test rider Kallio has confirmed rumours that KTM will make a wildcard appearance at the final round of the 2016 season at Valencia, ahead of their full-time debut next year in the championship.
With contracted riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró lined up to ride the new RC16 machine next year, the Finn will instead step in for the last race of the year.
“I think everyone can be really satisfied that we’re here with the others. In the end I think the lap times were quite good. We tried to follow the others and see how the bike is behaving and where we are losing compared to them.
“At the moment it’s quite good. We still have time to work before we come to the Valencia race.”
KTM test rider Kallio will race RC16 at Valencia The RC16 has surprised rivals with its top speed
‘ The motorcycle is absolutely on the right track. We can be really proud’ ALEX HOFMANN