Recovering from a “catastrophic” Wednesday, KTM test rider Mika Kallio was content with his fastest lap time on Thursday aboard the new RC16 MotoGP racer at a test in Jerez, but acknowledged issues with rear grip are still an issue.
The Finn's return to the MotoGP championship as a wildcard in the season-ending round at Valencia was hampered by, among other factors, an inability to lay the machine's considerable power down on track smoothly.
Kallio was testing again in Jerez, and while he struggled on the first of three days, the Austrian factory's engineers made improvements to allow him to lap within 1.5s of the fastest MotoGP machine on Thursday.
“[It was] Not so bad,” said Kallio. "I think we did a lot of improvements. In the end today we did a lap time that was quite a good level. This was the best so far in terms of lap time and the competitors. That's something positive, absolutely. Still, the gap to the front is there – 1.5s. So still a long way to go.
“Wednesday was quite catastrophic. We struggled a lot with this rear issue. We didn't know why it was exactly like that. Today [Thursday] we managed to solve a little bit that issue and we managed to do a lap time that was a better level.
“Basically [we improved] a little bit with the set-up, different on the rear shock, and a lot with the electronics. We definitely found something better.
“But still if I tried to follow the other bikes I can see that this is the point we are losing. We are really good on the brakes and also going into the corner. But the exit is something we are concentrating on.”
Kallio came to Jerez just a number of day after Valencia, a shakedown that allowed the Austrian factory's two riders for 2017 - Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro – sample the machine for the first time.
It transpired that both Smith and Espargaro pinpointed the same areas in need of improving as Kallio had, something that bodes well for the machine's continued development over the winter months.
“First of all it was quite interesting to hear the comments and feelings of both riders because they have a good reference from the Yamaha bike,” Kallio said of their feedback in Valencia.
“It was interesting comments and basically most of the comments were similar to mine, [regarding] which are the good points of the bike and which are the weak points of the bike. With them we could confirm that it was like this.
“I don't have too much experience with other [MotoGP] bikes so it's always fun to see. This is good confirmation from the other guys. The team came straight from Valencia to here so there was not too much time to react to anything. Basically the bike is exactly the same as in Valencia.
“But mainly what we are working on is the electronics and the strategy, to try and get the most grip out of the tyres. I think we did a small step today.”
Expanding on his feelings with new tyres Michelin brought to the Jerez test, Kallio continued, “Today [Thursday] we tried them. It seems that for us they were working better. That's another reason we improved the lap time.
“The problem is still there. Even if we improved the grip with the tyre, the problem is still there. We need to see if we can find solutions. With the front the differences were not too big. I always could use the strongest, stiffest option with this bike and I never had a big problem. That's good.
“From the other comments I heard from other riders they were struggling to use the harder compounds. That is a good point of this bike, that we can use it. The rear, yes, we saw today that there is a real difference and we improve with these new tyres.”