When Johann Zarco's early exit was confirmed, senior KTM management made clear their dream solution would be for test rider Dani Pedrosa to come out of retirement and fill the void.

It's unlikely to happen, although Pedrosa has so far stopped short of completely ruling it out. But the fact his name was instantly linked to the seat underlines how highly the Spaniard is already regarded by KTM.

A 54-time grand prix winner during 18-years with Honda, Pedrosa was forced to make a belated start to his KTM testing career after the discovery of collarbone injuries over the winter.

But since then the 33-year-old has been able to use his vast experience to help refine the current RC16 and will have a major role in shaping next year's machine.

"At the moment he is most helpful on the engine and electronics side, where he has much more experience than our current GP riders and Mika [Kallio]," said KTM MotoGP technical director Sebastian Risse.

"Not every rider will feel every step that he feels, but if you make a package of ten updates and then give it to the GP riders they [might] say, 'ah, this what I was looking for'.

"That's basically been one of our main focuses during this season. And then of course next year's bike is also in [Pedrosa's] hands to a big extent.

"We will test this package as soon as possible, also with the GP riders."

In terms of the bike weaknesses they are seeking to address, Risse explained that it's a two-pronged approach, reflecting the different needs of the KTM riders.

"We have on one side Pol and also Mika that focus a lot on the rear grip. Then we have riders coming from the Yamaha, which are focusing more on having an easier bike, with easier handling and turning," he said.

"It's clear that you have to force our bike a lot to get something out. You can get it out, but not every rider can go there and is prepared to go to that limit.

"That's basically our two main areas of focus. So we have to support Pol in what he needs, he is quite unique in his riding but brings the results at the moment. And on the other hand, also help the other riders."

Although Espargaro is yet to repeat the wet podium heroics of Valencia last year, the Spaniard is eleventh in the world championship and has already scored more points than any previous KTM season, including a new dry-best of sixth place at Le Mans.

"Pol had a tough season last year with injuries and this year you really saw him on another level," Risse said. "From our point of view over the winter he made a big step."

The pace of technical development has been rapid with KTM "now using our third engine spec of the season" but most of the biggest changes were introduced late last year.

"The bike is still not at the level we want it to be, but Pol is using it brilliantly… when something doesn’t work so well you can still fight for the top ten this year. That's really a big step forward.

"On the other hand we have Johann, who we still have not found the way, him and us. Basically his input to development is very much appreciated, we tried a lot of things, but really the results did not click and really reflect the change up to now."

The arrival of a satellite team via a partnership with Tech3 has also uncovered a rising star in the form of Miguel Oliveira, the Portuguese rookie currently ranked as the next best 'orange' rider after Espargaro with a best result of eighth.

"Miguel started as a blank page in MotoGP, so he is very open minded and just sucks the best from all the other riding styles and tries to develop himself and this is a good confirmation and input for us, of course," Risse said.

However, mirroring the situation at the factory team, team-mate Hafizh Syahrin has struggled with the switch from a rider-friendly Yamaha. "Hafizh is coming from a similar background to Johann and in most areas confirms his comments," Risse confirmed.

KTM is the only MotoGP manufacturer not to use an aluminium chassis or Ohlins suspension, which some feel penalises their chances in a single-tyre championship.

Risse disagrees: "Basically we work on several concepts of suspension but it's clear that we will stick to WP. And also on the frame we have continuous development in details as well as in concepts, but we don’t want to go towards aluminium chassis.

"We strongly believe that we can achieve our targets with a steel frame - whether that's damping, stiffness, or something else. It's about finding the right targets and then achieving them. That's what we work on."

Likewise, he feels KTM are equipped to deal with a specification change to some of the Michelin tyres for 2020.

"Tyres were the biggest area to understand when we joined MotoGP. Not only how to make the tyre work, but how to analyse it correctly, to make the right decisions.

"But I think we now have the tools to be ready for any different tyre specifications."

KTM, which made its MotoGP debut at the end of 2016, holds a 22-point advantage over Aprilia in the constructors' standings.

Long-time KTM test rider Mika Kallio, who now works alongside Pedrosa, will step-in should Zarco not complete the season.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...