BIG BANG BREAKTHROUGH
KTM’S new engine transforms race pace
The Red Bull KTM duo of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró had a significant breakthrough at Jerez after major changes to their RC16 machine saw them radically slash the gap to the leaders.
Debuting their new ‘big-bang’ configuration V4 engine in a preJerez test at Le Mans, they became the last of four manufacturers to make the switch from a traditional ‘screamer’ engine – and chose to use it in the race.
“It felt more like the engine that I had last year,” explained Smith. “It’s still different but it’s going in the right direction and that is the direction that everyone else is heading in, so it makes sense that we’d do it.
“We’ve always been working on
more torque from the very beginning – it’s something Pol and I requested from the very first test in Jerez. It’s always been the aim and it’s something that we’d improved even with the other engines – but this is a big step towards that idea; we just need more time.”
Despite it still being very early days for the KTM project, Smith says that it made a big difference in Sunday’s race as he took his best ever result for KTM, finishing 14th.
“It’s been a solid weekend for us,” he said. “From Friday we were able to get a good start in the wet and in the dry. Saturday was positive, and we had the chance to go through to Q2. The race was tricky, because we’ve never ridden the bike with those sort of track temperatures so it’s still a learning process.
“There are a few things we could have done better. But what a step forward we’ve made from the first three races – and I still believe that we can make even more steps before the next race at Le Mans.”
And while Smith’s 14th place was impressive in itself, the race could have been even better, with Smith’s teammate Pol Espargaró battling for a top ten finish when he crashed out.
“We tried too hard,” he told MCN afterwards. “We had a chance to be at the top, but you have to take chances sometimes to see if you’re able to be there. But to finally be at that level shows that the KTM factory have done a very good job, and I was simply trying to reward them by giving them some good points – but I tried too hard!”
‘I believe we can make even more steps forward before Le Mans’ BRADLEY SMITH
Espargaro was set for a top-ten finish... until he crashed out