KTM test rider Mika Kallio hopes all the hard work will pay off as he looks ahead to the final round of the MotoGP World Championship at Valencia, where the Finn will ride the brand new RC16 machine.
The former MotoGP rider and Moto2 frontrunner will ride the bike at the Spanish circuit on November 13 as preparations continue for KMT's full-time debut in 2017, when Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will lead the factory effort in the premier class.
Kallio has been the team's permanent test rider and following extensive development work throughout 2016, he is now eagerly counting the days to the 'highlight of the year' at Valencia.
“This year has been quite different for me, I've been in the MotoGP paddock since 2002 and more or less we had a set schedule with the races – so now I've been testing this year for KTM and everything changed quite a lot for me,” he told the official MotoGP website.
“I've been quite happy so far and everything is going well with KTM – I know the factory because I have a long history with them and I was racing with them in 125 and 250 – so I've really enjoyed to come back to the KTM family and now, step by step, let's say the highlight of the year is getting closer now Valencia is only a few weeks away. We've been working hard for that all year and hopefully we can really achieve the results we're looking for.”
Kallio feels he has achieved his objectives in terms of progress with the new bike this year, although he is all too aware that he needs to be realistic over his expectations for KTM's MotoGP race debut next month.
“The first laps with the KTM MotoGP bike were about one year ago – so the project and the bike are quite new, still. The first laps I did with the bike were last November and after that we've been testing a lot – on many different racetracks. We have a lot of experience and information now, about the bike.
“If I think how I felt when I first tried the bike and how I feel now, I can really say that we did a really good job this year. The development we were looking for we could find,” Kallio said.
“So I think the level of the bike is quite good at the moment, but of course we need to be realistic. We can't say we're at the top level at the moment because this is just a one year old bike and we can't compare ourselves to the top teams, but from the feeling side as a rider I feel good with the bike.”
On his personal targets for his race debut on the machine, Kallio said he is optimistic he can give a good account and possibly challenge for the top 15.
“We just need to concentrate on our own team, and everything has changed this year. I think it's better to not compare ourselves to anyone and just go to Valencia and focus on ourselves and try to do our own job. Of course there's a lot of expectation because everyone thinks that when KTM come to the races, they want to win.
“They have that mentality in the factory and they push everything to the limit and try to be as good as possible – and this is the way to go, and I like that feeling. But we need to be realistic. We're in a good mood and on a good level, and I have good feelings with the bike – but we need to be realistic that we're not going to Valencia to win the race,” he said.
“But I think for sure we can fight against the other guys. I don't know in the top 15 or in the top ten – nobody really knows at the moment because we've been alone on the track and there's been no reference point. So it will also be interesting from my side to see what our level is.”