Red Bull KTM MotoGP News
The Austria-based KTM debuted in the MotoGP this season with riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. The Red Bull KTM RC16 joined five other models in the premier class for 2017: Yamaha YZR-M1, Ducati GP17, Honda RC213V, Suzuki GSX-RR and the Aprilia RS-GP.
Just as preseason testing, the opening race under the floodlights in Qatar arrived with some challenges. The two riders finished just outside the top-15 that awards points; Espargaro claimed 16th, followed by Smith in 17th.
But the team had something to celebrate after round two at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina. Both scored the first-ever points for KTM; Espargaro finished 14th to collect two points, and Smith 15th to collect one after finishing the 25-lap MotoGP, which was dominated by Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales.
Following the race, Red Bull KTM Team Manager Mike Leitner said: “Everybody should take all these positive things from what has happened here, and I think the company especially should be motivated because we clearly see that there is a future. If we do the correct things, we will have more interesting races where we can fight with the other manufacturers and riders.
“This is what was super positive about today because for the first time Pol was directly fighting with other riders. He could see the strong and the weak points of the bike even better and the lap times were acceptable. This was a brand new track for us, and we have to be realistic. A lot of tracks we go to now will be new for us. We can only take the positives with us and try to learn, and to improve. Then next year when we come back to these places we will have already reached another level in our package.”
Both riders also spoke.
“What is the most important for the guys and the whole team is that this is the first time in history that KTM has taken points in MotoGP,” Pol Espargaro said. “We must be happy. But on the other side, I think we had the opportunity to do a little more. We are missing some speed in the straight to overtake the two guys I was fighting with, (Hector) Barbera and Tito (Rabat).
“It was a shame because I felt faster and we were faster today. We could have been in front of them at the end of the race, but it was impossible to do it. We still have some weak points, but on the other side, I congratulate the guys, they are doing a good job. We are making steps, for sure we are still far away but we are starting to see the light.”
Bradley Smith added: “Today was a great day for us as a team because we scored our first points with both riders. We made a good step forward from Qatar because there we weren’t able to fight with the group ahead of us. Here we could both stay with Barbera and Tito for most of the race, so we improved by another 3-4 seconds.
“I was really pleased with my race. All weekend I was struggling to do one minute 41 (lap times) but then in the race they were all mid to low 41s so I was happy with that. Of course we need to continue to improve but right now we have to be happy with what we are doing race-by-race. The next one in Austin (USA) is going to be tough for us. We have no data or information, there are 22 corners and it’s quite a technical layout so it’s going to be difficult.”
The team now breaks for two weeks ahead of its debut at Circuit of the Americas in Austin—the only American round on the 18-round 2017 MotoGP schedule.