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MotoGP Austria: KTM: We’re on schedule for Qatar 2017

KTM technical director Pit Beirer believes the Austrian factory would not disgrace itself it it had to race in MotoGP now; says all the factory preparing for Qatar, 2017.
If the times set in a two-day test in Spielberg in July weren't impressive enough, the declarations of KTM's technical director Pit Beirer during the unveiling of the factory's RC16 MotoGP racer signalled the seriousness of the factory's intentions.

Former motocross racer Beirer feels all of the KTM's efforts are centred on arriving in Qatar totally prepared for 2017, the factory's first appearance in the premier class since an ill-fated debut with Kenny Roberts' Senior's team petered out mid-way through 2005.

Judging by Saturday's presentation, and the personnel on show – Beirer was joined by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, test rider Mika Kallio, ex-Dani Pedrosa crew chief Mike Leitner and technical director Sebastian Risse – no stone will be left unturned as the factory attempts to climb through the MotoGP ranks.

Test riders Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi ended a test on Austrian soil just one second in arrears of Valentino Rossi's Movistar Yamaha, a feat that excited the factory's 2017 line-up of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro.

Beirer feels the factory “could race already” and also revealed four more tests will take place before Mika Kallio makes a wildcard appearance at the Grand Prix of Valencia in November.

“We had the chance to create a professional testing structure,” Beirer told assembled media in the Red Bull Ring's opulent media centre.

“I'd say that we already have two crews ready. We could race already. All the people are on board. We are not starting next year with the race team. The race team is already now in place.

“Testing we could go with two riders consistently. We have enough bikes, enough fuel, very strong, good engines that didn't break. We could do laps and laps and learn a lot. We went to all kinds of different tracks to develop experience and learn different tracks.

“We had smaller riders. We had taller riders. We have tried many, many different things. Now of course the background calculation gets smaller and smaller. Qatar is just around the corner. Valencia is our wildcard GP. We're going to test four more times.

“The test here in Spielberg, where we had our competition together on the track, it was very interesting for us to know where we are. We found out. We are not dramatically far away. There is a gap. That is very clear.

“We have a huge respect for all the competitors in this class. We know what a high level we are against. But I'd say we have a good time schedule. We are not in any crazy panic. But everyone's target is Qatar, and to be ready to go there. I just can confirm that we are OK and we are on schedule.”

Test rider Mika Kallio explained how he felt the RC16's base set-up was already at a high level when he first climbed aboard the machine, and stated the bike currently possesses no obvious areas in need of drastic improvement.

“The first time I sampled the bike I immediately felt that the base is there, that the base is good. The lap time was already on a good level. Of course there were a lot of things that we needed to improve. Step-by-step we went in a better way.

“A few weeks ago we demonstrated for everyone that we are in a good way and at a good level. It's nice to see that all the hard work in this project is starting to pay off. It's good to be on the bike. After many years in Moto2, I'm sampling a MotoGP bike and I've enjoyed all the laps that I did.

“There are other areas that we need to improve. I don't really think we have any weak points. There are some things we can improve a little bit but we're quite close to our competitors. We should be happy with the level we're at now but like everyone said, at KTM they need to be on the top.

“So all the parameters, we need to improve. I'd say the engine is really good on this bike. We have now three or four tests before Valencia. That's more time [on the bike]. Let's see where we are. I think we can go there and be strong.”

Ex-Repsol Honda crew chief Leitner was extremely impressed by the structure within KTM when he arrived at the close of 2014. The Austrian was responsible for the earmarking of Smith and Pol Espargaro for the factory's 2017 line-up.

“It's very challenging. I was living in this world of MotoGP for years. How the team is working and the group in the house, everyone is really behind the project. We are very focussed on the future, and I think we can make a good job.

“To be fair, when I came to KTM there were already very good people in-house. Now there are people that understand what is going on here [in the MotoGP paddock], out of the house. We have some good people.

“We will go next week to Misano. There will be a test there with Ducati. Then Aragon for another three-day test. Then we go home to prepare some things. We'll then make a test in Valencia and then we'll be ready for Mika to do the wildcard.”

By Neil Morrison






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