Ninth months after completing its first miles at the Red Bull Ring, KTM was back at the track this week. In the last days, the RC16 has lined up against its rivals at the Red Bull Ring and, we can safely say, that it hasn't done badly. Mika Kallio was within two seconds (1”915) of Iannone's incredible time, with Luthi a little further off (2”465), but he is also inexperienced in the reigning class.
The overall outcome is a positive one for the Austrian manufacturer, as underlined by motorsport director Pit Beirer: “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 say 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. We now have four further tests on the program before we ride with Mika Kallio as a wild card in the final race of the season in Valencia, which for us is also another milestone. He and the entire team have delivered a fantastic job in the past half year, and this has been reflected in the results of this test.”
Mike Leitner is also pleased: “It's fantastic that we’ve now really confirmed that we’re going in the right direction. The test was pure competition because naturally all the teams tried to find a good setup for the Grand Prix. At the end of the second day the times started to drop and this gave us our first real reference. If someone had told us before the test that we were three seconds behind, we would have taken it well. This achievement is even more praiseworthy in the class where they fight for every tenth of a second. This was an important step that is bound to guarantee that awareness is sharpened throughout the entire company.”
Technical director Sebastian Risse emphasised the fact that no update has been made to the bike: “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 wildcard entry into the last race of the season.”
Finally the riders, starting with Mika Kallio: “I think our performance was better than many expected and the distance between us and the others could have been greater. But we’ve delivered impressive work on the two test days and we notice that the other teams were to some extent also impressed. We didn’t have any technical problems and step by step we were able to put in faster laps over both days and on the second day we improved our times by a second over the first. With all the other riders on the circuit we clearly saw in which areas we still had to improve. This allowed me to follow some other riders and I understand what is now necessary.”
Tom Luthi continued his apprenticeship on the KTM: “I’m very happy with my performance. We made technical improvements regarding the fork and also the topic of the tires was naturally very interesting for me. Although I haven’t yet found the ideal combination where I can say I can now ride a half a second faster, the interplay between things like the wheelie control, traction control or torque power coming out of the slower corners is extremely interesting. Among other things, for me that means I have to improve before the next test in Misano, but as mentioned, my main focus is still on Moto2.“
Test rider Alex Hofmann also made some laps: "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 morning of the second day were awesome. The motorcycle is absolutely on the right track. At the moment I see nothing that should put a stop to this. We can be really proud of this first comparison considering that the bike was only rolled out nine months ago."
KTM will present its new MotoGP project during the Austrian GP, after which it will complete two test sessions in rapid succession at Misano and in Spain.