19 April 2007
Q&A: Harald Bartol – KTM.
Red Bull KTM technical director Harald Bartol is the man in charge of developing the Austrian marque's 125 and 250cc machines into grand prix winners.
Here, Bartol answers questions on the season so far, the development of KTM's machines, new signing Steve Bonsey, his verdict after the first Red Bull KTM Rookie's Cup race and more...
At the first grand prix in Qatar, Aprilia seemed unbeatable. But at the second race in Jerez, the KTM seemed as quick. Was that a pleasant surprise?
I didn't expect anything else. I wouldn't have understood where Aprilia's big advantage came from, despite their new system with the rotary valve now sitting behind the cylinder. Alvaro Bautista created big hopes for Aprilia when he dominated the field with this new bike in the final race last season. But it was he as a rider that was superior, not the bike.
Guys like Mattia Pasini would now have more chances to fight for race wins and the title if they were, like Gabor Talmacsi, on Aprilia's old 125 cc version. The new rotary valve system is still full of technical problems. It's just too new yet.
Having said that, I don't want to hide the fact that Aprilia's overall package is currently better than ours. The bike is easier to ride and easier to set up. We had different priorities last winter and now we have to catch up in this area.
But aren't two-stroke engines with a reed valve intake, like the KTMs, easier to manage and more user-friendly than engines with a rotary valve intake?
Who says that? This is nothing but an old rumour that certain people repeat in order to protect themselves. When reed valve engines first came out many years ago, the driveability was indeed better - because other components on these bikes, like the electrical systems, were further advanced. But in general, rotary valve engines with their fixed valve timing are much easier to manage than reed valve engines with their reed valves doing whatever they want to do as far as valve timing goes. The fact that we at KTM developed reed valve engines has other reasons: The construction is less complicated and, at the end of the day, it's less expensive.
One of KTM's highlights of the season so far has been American teenager Steve Bonsey, who took points in Jerez with hardly any road racing experience at all. What do you expect from him?
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