KTM's plans to gain conclusive MotoGP race data with its 2019 machine have been thwarted by Mika Kallio's season-ending knee injury at Sachsenring.

But while the 'proof' is lacking, KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer insists the big design decisions had already been made, while Bradley Smith is now testing some remaining parts during grands prix weekends.

Five wild-cards had been planned for Kallio this season, to refine and then confirm the substantial changes made for next year's RC16, before handing the bike over to new signing Johann Zarco and Pol Espargaro for the start of winter testing.

MotoGP bikes - what's the difference?

Video Thumbnail: 

But Kallio only rode in two events - Jerez and Catalunya - before his German injury, completing a race distance at the first outing in Jerez, when he promisingly finished as the top KTM. 

The remaining wild-cards were planned for last weekend's Austrian round and at next month's Aragon event, by which time KTM hoped to have put three race-distances of data on the 2019 machine.

"The plan was messed up," said Beirer. "I think the [2019] bike is pretty good and competitive, but we were not super lucky.

"In Barcelona Mika was on a strange set-up on Friday and Saturday then had a really good set-up for Sunday, with a great warm-up. So we expected a lot in the race, to see where the [new] bike really is… First lap he crashed.

"Then we were all hoping at Sachsenring to see what the [new] bike does in the race and he was not there."

The team's situation worsened when Espargaro was injured next time at Brno. However, despite losing his seat to Zarco, Smith then agreed to test what parts he could for KTM.

A new engine is definitely one of the changes for the 2019 bike, and widely assumed to feature a counter-rotating crankshaft.

But Beirer said the full version of the 2019 'Kallio' bike won't be given to Smith and Espargaro this season for 'homologation' reasons. This has caused some head-scratching, since - as a concession manufacturer - KTM is able to freely change its engine and chassis design during the season. So it is presumably something outside of those areas.

"Due to homologation this [2019] bike is not allowed to be used by our racers. You will not see next year's bike this year in the races, because only the wild-card guy could use it," said Beirer, refusing to state which of the 2019 parts he was referring to:

"There are some things that are homologated and a wild-card or test rider could use different things, of course within the rules. But then [there are] unhomologated parts. Because some things you can only homologate and that's it and you cannot change any more.

"So we could test with him [Kallio] different things to the race guys.

"So the bike we actually want to see now on the race track, we will not see at the moment. And now we don't have a test rider, so we don't see it even at home! So it's not an easy situation," added Beirer, speaking before KTM announced an agreement for Randy de Puniet to take over Kallio's testing duties until he recovers.

But there are currently no confirmed plans for the Frenchman to take on Kallio's remaining wild-cards, meaning: "Now we need to go testing with our race guys, to make sure this is the bike for next year. "

The MotoGP engine list shows Smith received two new ('Kallio-spec') engines for practice and qualifying at Brno, but reverted to the standard design for the race after technical issues. The Englishman remained on the standard engines to help ensure a trouble-free home event, as KTM's lone rider in Austria, but hopes to be back on the new engines next time at Silverstone.

"There are still many other things that we want to try and, like in Brno, we said to Bradley, 'we still have to take some decisions on some parts in 2019. Are you open to test them?' And he said 'yes'."

'The 2019 bike is ready'

Despite the double injury blow and previous accidents preventing the 2019 prototype getting a MotoGP race run, Beirer said the big design decisions have already been made.

"We don't have proof of a race result for where that bike is, but what we think is good, what Mika liked, we had on the bike. So the bike is ready," he said. "But we will not have it confirmed three times by three good races.

"Pretty much the decision is clear about how the bike will look in November.

"If you don’t do it now, you will not have parts [ready] in November. So there is a certain risk and we really wanted to double or triple check but that's not possible now. So there is no security on that, but it will not set us back as far as how the bike will look."

'We don’t want Zarco to test ten different bikes'

The November post-season test at Valencia will not only mark the official start of 2019 preparations, but also the much-anticipated RC16 debut for new signing Zarco.

The Frenchman has so far claimed five podiums and four pole position since joining the premier-class with Tech3 Yamaha and KTM has made clear they believe he will help take their MotoGP project to the next level.

Much of the early groundwork by Kallio with the 2019 machine has been aimed at getting a settled technical package in place for Zarco's arrival.

"These last two years have been really wild if you compare us to another MotoGP team. Parts are flying, flying out. Trucks are full of part," Beirer said. "So even if we need to do more now - once Tech3 is coming on board, and Johann - we want to be more quiet.

"So we really want to go through the crazy things now and have real stability when he is coming.

"For sure we don’t want him to test ten different bike concepts in November. The target is to give him a bike and say, 'now you ride and let's work on normal [set-up] things' to adapt to his riding style.

"That's a big target. That's also why Mike [Leitner, team manager] was so good and so strong with us, always warning, 'Hey, next season starts in November and we need to start early, to have many new bikes and parts ready'."

As a result of the injuries to Kallio and Espargaro, KTM has decided to hire two test riders for the 2019 season, with Smith, Dani Pedrosa and Jonas Folger in contention.



Loading Comments...