KTM: Aerodynamics? 'We warned about this scenario’

KTM was strongly opposed to allowing wings and aerodynamic devices in MotoGP, on the grounds that it could become a bottomless pit of investment similar to F1.

But having lost that battle - stricter regulations from 2018 saw wing-style devices ‘integrated’ with the fairing (and updated once per season) but not banned - the Austrian factory is making a big aerodynamic push for 2023.

Using its close relationship with Red Bull, KTM has secured a new partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, an offshoot of the world championship-winning F1 team.

“We warned about this scenario and how [aerodynamics] would open a new sinkhole for a lot more money in the budget,” said KTM Motorsports director Pit Beirer.

“We were never in favour of that development. I don’t want to hide that. But we did not really get support [from others] to keep the bike more in a classic way, how it was [without aerodynamic devices].

“But that’s now behind us. We have a great partner [RBAT], we have the budget and we go for it! We enjoy the wind tunnel work and we go there as often as we can.

Remote video URL

"Sometimes we bring the riders – we've had all of them there – to take the whole package into account, maybe even more so with bikes compared to Formula One because the riders are moving a lot more. How the helmet works with the neck and the leathers is very important for example, so you need them in the wind tunnel with any new parts.

“It doesn’t make sense to go every week because you don’t have new parts every week, but we have a fixed scenario for how often we go there and it is definitely much more than before with that support [from RBAT] because we have many more options to try.”

The partnership will see KTM’s own aerodynamic engineers collaborating on new ideas from the four-wheel background at RBAT.

“The work with Red Bull Advanced Technologies is super-exciting and super-refreshing,” Beirer said. “Aerodynamics is something [where] we just didn’t grow our own knowledge and expertise enough, for what is going on in MotoGP.”

Beirer explained that, as MotoGP aerodynamic sophistication has evolved, it’s no longer just about wing downforce figures or top speeds.

“You need to bring wings and different [aero] things all around the motorcycle and everything is affecting the bike,” he said.

“It is quite easy to create to downforce, it’s easy to create top speed, but to combine it to have everything you want from the aerodynamics is tough and a very complex topic.

“We have established this working group [with RBAT] and we exchange information. The rest of the motorcycle we really want to build in our own facility and we have great people to do that.

“But the aerodynamic ‘door’ I feel that is a long-term working plan we’ll have together with Red Bull.”

Jack Miller bike, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November
Jack Miller bike, Valencia MotoGP test, 8 November

MotoGP aero ‘not huge in terms of the total budget’

While aerodynamics is now a ‘big piece’ of a successful MotoGP package and an ‘additional cost’, it is only part of the puzzle and Beirer admitted KTM’s earlier fears of limitless spending have not come to fruition.

“I cannot tell you in percentage, but [the aero budget] is not huge in terms of the total MotoGP budget, which is already a big number,” he said.

“Aerodynamics is now one big piece of the puzzle, but the rest is so important also. We cannot lean back now and say ‘the bike is good and Red Bull Racing will fix the [aero] for us’. That would not be at all realistic.

“We have 150 people in the factory working on that [MotoGP] project. They made new chassis and turned around every single little clip and washer in that engine. The electronic department was developing, the suspension boys are coming up with new forks and shocks, you build your own swingarm.

“There is so much to do and everything needs to grow. So we cannot say ‘OK, let’s now focus half the budget into the aerodynamic’. It is another package on top of everything else that all needs to work.

“If you fail with one thing in MotoGP at the moment, if that one part is not good enough to go into the last two tenths then you are not dropping from the podium to 7th, you are dropping out of the points.

“The field is so competitive and compact that if you have the smallest weak part in your project then you hardly get points in that class.

“It’s the hardest experience we have in our racing world at the moment. In other [racing] disciplines, if you have a good base bike and a good rider then you know already you are somewhere in the top five.

“But that is not a given for anybody in the MotoGP class. If you make a mistake, you are lining up for the last point.”

Lower fairing aerodynamics, pioneered by Aprilia, looks to be among the main areas of winter MotoGP development.

KTM is expected to have new parts, spawned from the new Red Bull partnership, ready to try at next week's Sepang MotoGP test.


Read More