After three seasons on Yamaha's sweet handling, stable M1, Pol Espargaro believes he and KTM need to tame the 'wild' RC16 after three physically demanding days at Sepang.
Espargaro showed some fine early pace on Monday, setting the 16th fastest time, less than a tenth of a second off the fastest Aprilia. The former Moto2 world champion didn't improve on that in the following days, meaning he left Malaysia 21st overall.
Known for his aggressive style, Espargaro was quick to appreciate the KTM's need “to be ridden wild” to an extent. Push it more and the lap time will come, he said. Good for one lap perhaps, but over a race distance the effort needed "is really difficult".
“It's really different than the bikes that we are used to riding,” said Espargaro. “It's physically demanding. We have done almost a [full] race simulation in the last run and, you know, with the tyres so used, I think we have done a good job.
“But you realise that this bike is completely different. It needs to be ridden wild. But even like that you get really tired. Even though the bike is wild the electronics and things make the movements of the bike even bigger. You have to hold it with the body. This is so physical.
“For sure the KTM is a bike that, when you push more, the lap time comes. You can make a crazy lap and the lap time comes. But making consecutive laps is really difficult.
“That's what we were trying today – not just to make one lap, but trying to repeat with a used tyre. This is the most important point right now. We can make one good lap but after this the bike becomes too aggressive and too nervous. We are trying and I'm happy. We've made big, big steps.”
Espargaro had a garage full of new parts to test across the three days, including three different tubular chassis. The Catalan found elements in two that he liked, and is hopeful KTM engineers can combine those in time for the next outing in Australia.
“We found something good in some areas of the chassis and something bad. I think we're going to take both of them and put it together for Phillip Island. They are able to do this. KTM are going to bring a new chassis to Phillip Island with this spec. We'll see what happens there.
“I have tried something a bit more than Bradley, from the new chassis that we have. I think especially the last hour of the test, when we make the race simulation I have changed a little bit the mind.
“But, clearly we have some good parts in one chassis and some good parts in the other. It would be better to mix it. It would be amazing. It is not as easy as it sounds.
“Even like that, with both chassis, we need to improve in other areas. It's difficult to say my 2017 bike is this one. We don't know how it works after making the change. I dream of one bike but I still think the way is long.”
On the particular areas in which both chassis work, he added, “Well, we have one chassis that reacts better in the exit of the corner with throttle and the other chassis that is light and you are allowed to make more angle into the corner.
“Still the one that is better on the exit of the corner needs to be better and the one that turns has to be like that. Both need to be improved and both need to be better. Anyway KTM is working good because at the end we found something good in both chassis and this is a good direction for them to analyse and work.”