Leopard Racing team manager Stefan Kiefer has rejected claims by KTM's sporting director Pit Beirer that last season Honda had exceeded the Moto3 rev limit, adding that it was Danny Kent who made the difference in the world title fight.
In an interview with German-language website Speedweek.com
, KTM's Beirer alleged the factory has seen data from the Honda Moto3 machine, via a former Honda mechanic, that shows RPM exceeding the 13,500 maximum by creeping up to 13,600 RPM.
The claims do not mention Moto3 world champion Kent by name, but imply the British rider could have had an unfair advantage over his KTM rivals.
Leopard Racing, surprised by the allegations which complicates its relationship with KTM as its Moto3 squad switches to the Austrian manufacturer and away from Honda for 2016, has run its own investigation into its engine data which demonstrated no breach of regulations and refutes the allegations.
In the Moto3 technical regulations the specification Dell'Orto ECU, albeit a basic unit, cuts in at 13,501 RPM to halt power from the engine before returning power once the engine speed is below the rev limit. This effect of cut and ignition causes the engine to bounce on the limiter.
Honda's edge in performance could be attributed to a much smoother and stable power delivery at maximum revs rather than KTM's full power until the ECU cuts in. Nonetheless, the root of KTM's accusation seems to be that Honda surpassed 13,500 RPM on a regular rather than accidental basis, which would allow a small boost of power when needed most.
But Kiefer says Leopard Racing's data from 2015 does not show any wrongdoing and feels it is an issue which needs to be dealt with between the manufacturers and Dorna.
“I don't know why this happened or why it was reported,” Kiefer said. “I think it is something Dell'Orto, KTM, Honda and Dorna have to solve and not on the team side. I know from my side everything was clear and okay.”
Pressed on the issue, Kiefer says he is confused why KTM would feel the need to bring up the subject just weeks away from the start of the 2016 season. He also believed any advantage Honda gained from power delivery at maximum revs was a small one which decreased as the season developed and says his rider's skills were the telling contribution for Great Britain's first motorcycle grand prix world champion since Barry Sheene in 1977.
“Honestly, the KTM was never that far away from Honda at the first race of 2015, only a little bit,” he said. “During the season KTM caught up a lot. The main difference was Danny.
“He had strong pre-season tests, really top management in races which gave him the really great start. I think the main difference between the manufacturers was not the engines but it was Danny and the riders.”
Kiefer had been speaking at Leopard Racing's official team launch in Italy as it prepares a new two-bike assault in Moto2 with Kent and Miguel Oliveira on Kalex machinery, while the team also continues in Moto3 with KTM and an all-new rider line-up of Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir and Andrea Locatelli.
Kiefer, who is team manager for Leopard's Moto2 efforts this season, is confident last year's top two in Moto3 can form a formidable partnership to break ranks in the intermediate class but is keen to stress a conservative build-up throughout the season.
“I'm really happy as we are now moving to the Moto2 and have two great riders in Kent and Oliveira,” Kiefer said. “These guys are very experienced coming up as the top two from Moto3 and they both know how to win races. They will be competitive and fast in Moto2, I don't know how quickly they'll be able to do that but they have the talent.
“I'm happy if we can start with places between 6th and 12th at the beginning of the season. I know these riders won't be happy with 10th position so they will try to get more and the team will do the same.
“We have two world titles now [Stefan Bradl, Moto2 in 2011 and Kent, Moto3 2015] so we would not be happy with 10th position but in this class with two inexperienced riders we have to be careful.”