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27 days ago
By motogp.com

KTM: "The progress is amazing and the promise is huge"

The present is bright and the future even brighter – with Espargaro and Smith more than happy with testing in Valencia

“We must be proud and happy of what we have done this year,” says Espargaro as the curtain falls on 2017. “Overall we've had a good year as we finished much higher than where we started so the progression this year has been unbelievable. No one expected where we were going to finish so I'm so proud of the guys working here at the track and the team at the factory in Austria developing this bike. This is so important for us.”

It was indeed an incredible trajectory for KTM, from the first time the bike competed – at Valencia in 2016 with Mika Kallio on board – to a constant top ten threat by the same time this season. It hasn’t been easy and the work undertaken behind-the-scenes and in public has been a mammoth task – but the pay off is there.

With 2018 now already underway for many, Espargaro was equally positive following testing at Valencia. “Super positive, I’m super happy and the team is really pumped because we’ve made a big step with the rhythm, grip and turning. We’re focused on that, and we were improving the bike…with the new pieces on the rear part of the bike, it feels so good and the rhythm was really amazing. We can’t ask for more here in Valencia, we need to reconfirm in Jerez.”

"Super test!": KTM riders talk Valencia

“We tested rims, swingarms, chassis, electronics…and there are a lot of new guys here, a lot of new young, talented guys who can give us experience. We need to work together a bit more, the progress has been amazing here in Valencia but I think the promise is huge.”

Smith also had good things to say – following another top finish in eleventh in the race, and ending the test much further forward than the same time last year: “This two day test was really important to try a lot of hardware. We didn’t do a lot of laps because each part takes so long to mount and fit. We’ve been focused on the rear end and grip. The second half of the race hasn’t been our strongest point so we’ve been focusing on used tyres and trying to improve the grip in that area. Yesterday I had one program and Pol had the other, then today we reversed. I think the new parts we had are a good step forward but we also want to do more and start pushing the guys in the top ten. It’s amazing what this company has done in such a short amount of time.”

Leitner assesses KTM's post-season test in Valencia

Mike Leitner, KTM Motorsport On-Road Vice President, explained the test for the Austrian marque – with even more positivity as the future seems to get brighter and brighter: “The focus of the test was quite simple. Because we made such a development this year, we changed 100% so we go back some steps and re-test things we didn’t get time to test in sessions. Up to now it’s really interesting. The test for us is very good. We’re really happy with the first season, we’re happy with the development and the riders can feel the development. We’ll try to make another step so we can constantly fight with the other manufacturers. And we’ll do a test in December, then prepare everything for Sepang and the first winter test – it doesn’t stop, we just continue.”

First Jerez, then another test, then, finally, it will be time for Sepang – with another step for the Austrian factory, if taken, looking to bring them into more than simply top ten contention…

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