Austrian man­u­fac­turer im­presses first time out on track with ri­vals at new Red Bull ring

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - SI­MON PAT­TER­SON MO­TOGP RE­PORTER si­mon.pat­ter­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

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

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