Pit Beirer (virtually) met reporters from all over the world to comment on the KTM's first MotoGP victory in the Czech Republic Grand Prix. A success that has repaid the many efforts made in recent years by the Austrian manufacturer. Beirer addressed a lot of topics, talking about the development process of the RC-16 and also getting some things off his chest with regard to his rivals.
KTM met the MotoGP challenge and believed in it until the end, choosing a different direction from that of his rivals and arriving in 2020 with four riders on the track in the top ten, both in qualifying and in the race. Many expected that a possible first win for the Austrian manufacturer could be that of Pol Espargarò, but the Spanish rider could soon reap this satisfaction, given the level shown by his bike in Brno.
"I'm still smiling since last Sunday," a radiant Beirer began explaining. "It was exciting, because we started with a blank slate. We put the first bike together, then took part in the first race. Today, we celebrate our first victory. I'm really happy for the team and for Brad who started with us from the Rookies Cup. I can't find the right words to express what I feel. We won without major falls in front of us. We were on the podium in Valencia, but it was a different situation."
A splendid victory which, however, also brings you close to losing concessions.
"Honestly, losing concessions is the last thing we're thinking about at the moment. We had our benefits in the beginning, and now we're also ready to leave them. It would mean that we've conquered another podium. After the victory, the target for the season remains the same. More than one rider in the top 10 and top 5, not just for a weekend, and without anyone falling in front of us."
Beirer: "Pedrosa changed direction in the project"
How much did Pedrosa's development have an influence. What was the major step he took?
"The biggest criticism regarding our bike was that only Pol could ride it. We knew it, but you can't change such a situation in one night. You can take away two seconds easily but, when you reach the last second, the difficult part begins. We wanted to make it rideable by all the riders. I was not dissatisfied in 2019. Miguel and Pol both got injured. We brought new parts to the track every week, then the time comes when you have to develop the bike for the following year. We worked a lot with Dani and Mika, but Dani gave the project a different direction, to our frame, the suspensions, and even the engine. Sure, we took on other technicians, but never copied. The bike is completely different from the previous three years."
Where did you make up most of the gap?
"There's a big difference between the 2019 and the 2020 bike. We were strong in braking, but our real disadvantage was understeering. If you give gas late, even if you have a good engine, you waste time. When we carried out the first tests in Valencia with the new bike, we immediately realized that our riders were following the same trajectories as the others. We analyzed the videos.We're there because we have our frame and our suspensions that we make in-house. We don't have to wait for someone else to develop these components. We do everything ourselves. Today, it's easy to talk and say it's the right thing, but there was no evidence that it was really like that until last Sunday."
Today, you're the only ones with a tubular frame. It's a question of marketing, or are you still convinced of this technical decision?
"Tubular frame, never any doubt for us. It's not a question of marketing. We have the knowledge. We've learned to print it, and it's three times more rigid than aluminum, and it's even lighter. We need to understand how to take advantage of it. Aluminum or steel, it doesn't make a difference. You have to give the rider the flexibility he asks for, front or back. Now we have a platform for the future. It would not be possible to win in the MotoGP otherwise."
Electronics are always a fundamental element, but you took an engineer from Formula 1 instead of a former Marelli technician. Why did you make this choice?
"We respected Dorna by not taking former Marelli men from them. Sure, at one point, it would have been an advantage to have one of their men but, like I said, there are no shortcuts and, at some point, things fell into place. The MotoGP is all concentrated on managing power at the moment. We decided to mix men from the world of motorcycles and F1 experts. We had to do the work from scratch, and we put our trust in an engineer from McLaren. And this person took us immediately to a higher level, but you know that motorcycles and cars have different problems. In Formula 1, however, the level of knowledge on electronics is simply at the top for Motorsports."
Beirer: "Pol Espargarò deserved to win the first race for KTM in the MotoGP"
Sunday Binder won, but Pol Espargarò also had his chance. How do you judge the cancellation of his lap in qualifying? Have you thought about appealing?
"Rules are rules. Sometimes, they favor you, others you find them against you. Pol couldn't see the yellow flag, because the corner was to the left, he was bent and, the way the flag was displayed, outside, it would have been impossible to see it. Even on TV, to see it well, you have to zoom the image, and put a red circle around it. Do you think a rider who risks his life cornering at over 200 km/h was able to see it? Of course, a second place in qualifying would have been incredible. But, ultimately, if he saw the flag, he would have had to turn the gas off, so we're talking about nothing, because most certainly nothing would have changed. We never thought about appealing that decision. Pol would have deserved to collect KTM's first MotoGP victory for all the effort he put into it. But, in any case, he's part of this victory. If he hadn't fallen .... I feel really bad for him."
When did you realize you had a bike that was capable of winning?
"After the end of the Jerez Grand Prix, Brad came to me and said, 'Pit, I had the best bike on the track.' If a rookie tells you such a thing, it removes many doubts about the competitiveness of your bike. He also has a very particular disposition. He has two sides. In private, he's very relaxed and friendly, as are his parents. But when he races, he's a warrior, and it's not always easy to find such a mix in a rider."
You've reached the top at a time when the level in the MotoGP is very high, everyone is close.
"Today, with just one second, you're out of the 20. Dorna has done a great job in bringing the teams closer. The rules are perfect for bringing the various bikes closer from a performance viewpoint. Costs are also under control, and that's important for the class. But we can't relax now. We're not yet at Yamaha's level, and Lin Jarvis, who has four great riders and excellent material for all four. Every Sunday, they know they can get great results with at least one of their riders. Having Tech3 and four identical bikes helps a lot. Having four riders means preparing ten bikes at the same level (eight plus two for the tests, ed.). Before, all the pressure was on Pol in selecting the new upgrades on the bikes. Now, Miguel and Brad contribute to the development, and everything is easier. Iker is young and is learning, but he'll also soon reach the same level."
Beirer: "We make the riders grow, and no one can copy us, at least I hope.
You have a real supply chain of riders, you have a sort of cantera and, in 2021, you'll have two Factory riders in the MotoGP who come from this cantera. It's a reason to be satisfied. Aren't you afraid that others can imitate you?
"Racing in the Moto2 was difficult for us, you all know that well. Building the frame, developing it. We wanted to do it, because we didn't want to lose a Moto3 world champion rider. We didn't want a rider who might have won the title with us in the Moto3 go race for someone else. With the Moto2, we built a bridge so that Binder could stay with us, like all the other riders. We've been investing in this area for over ten years, and I don't think it's possible for others to copy us. At least, I hope no one does."
After this great victory, do you think the KTM will have that push to build a replica MotoGP or a road superbike, perhaps starting from your V4?
"A superbike is not on our agenda at the moment. We want to learn in the MotoGP and develop technology to be transferred to our current range of models. But we have other segments and other more strategic types of bikes to build before making a superbike."