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21 days ago
By Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

KTM after the #QatarTest: ready to race?

Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith finish off preseason testing at Losail

The last three days of preseason testing are now over at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, and that begs the question of everyone on the grid – are they ready to race? One of the most anticipated answers to that question comes from Austrian manufacturer KTM and the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing squad, who are preparing to line up full time for the first time in 2017 with riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith.

On track in Qatar alongside test rider Mika Kallio, Espargaro and Smith continued their huge workload throughout the three days, with refinements now in full swing after the data gathered in Sepang and at Phillip Island – and throughout their long period of testing.

In addition to testing various engine and chassis configurations in Qatar, the team concentrated on the further development of various electronics strategies, as well as on setting up the bike for the first race. Espargaro also put in a successful complete race distance on the KTM RC16 at the end of the test.

Here’s what the team had to say:

Bradley Smith: “We were just clarifying the parts and chassis that we’re going to race with, and I’m pleased with the improvements again today. I think we were able to improve another 2.5 seconds over the three days and the track conditions were a bit better on Sunday. I found my performance on the medium tyre was better and I think that might be a race option for us. In general, we were working with the mapping and the electronics, and we made some good progress, especially in the electronics. We now have something that is a lot more consistent and good over the race distance with all tires, so everybody did a really good job. Looking at the lap times, we have to find another half a second. We’re close to the two guys in front but then there’s a gap to the next group, and that’s where we want to be if we want to fight for points.”

Pol Espargaro: “We were testing a lot of new parts, and I think this is probably the most difficult circuit for us. I believe here we are a bit further away from where we want to be, but we just focused on making long runs with used tires, and to analyze what was happening with the bike. We have good ideas but for sure the lap times could be better. Right now we want to focus more on the race. We’re still missing some acceleration and compared with the other factory bikes still something in the corners. We're okay with the brakes, but we lose some time with the traction and the electronics."

Mika Kallio: “We had a lot of things on our plan, and we had to concentrate on setting up the bike for the first race. Basically, my job was to try to help the others. Maybe this was not the best track for our bike at the moment, but that's why we had so many things on the schedule. We also had an unlucky tire situation not being able use the specs what all the other riders on track got. I concentrated more on the chassis, and the team worked on getting better handing in the corners and a less aggressive engine, and this was positive for the race team.”

Mike Leitner - Team Manager: "In general, the tests were good for us. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to come to this very special track with a new bike. Now we have to learn what we can improve. We had a full test program because there were many things we wanted to try before the start of the season. This doesn't always look good on the timesheets but it was very necessary for us to go through the process with all the riders, and we're quite happy. The riders and the team worked hard, and everyone gave the maximum, and that's the most important thing. We know we have to improve certain things on the bike but now let's start racing.”

Sebastian Risse - Technical Director: "This was another new track for us, and one I think didn't suit us as well as the previous two (Sepang and Phillip Island). On the one hand, we had all the final preparations before the first race, and on the other, we just had to adapt to the track and the variable conditions here. We didn't have an easy time here, but there were still a lot of positives. We learned a lot. We could see clear progress so we can take some more steps and approach the first race weekend successfully.”