In it to win it.

That was the clear expectation of Red Bull motorsport manager Thomas Uberall during today's launch of the new KTM MotoGP team.

"It was clear for us, as an Austrian factory with a long history with KTM, to join this MotoGP project from the first day on, "he said. "This is why we are here and looking forward to the same successful steps as we did in off-road, up to the MotoGP world champion title very soon. No pressure Pit!"

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director, insisted pressure was nothing new to KTM, although he admitted MotoGP is 'another dimension'.

"We are very well experienced in racing, but of course now entering on this level of MotoGP is still another dimension for our whole company," said the former motocross grand prix star.

"But I mean pressure, that's what we love. We are racers so that's nothing special for us to handle. But of course the last weeks and months have been an adventure and a huge effort by the whole company.

"All of this would not be possible without all of the other disciplines we've raced in before, where we learned a lot about racing. We are really looking forward to the step into MotoGP."

Sharing the responsibility for turning targets into reality will be KTM's MotoGP race team manager Mike Leitner.

A former 125cc grand prix rider, Leitner worked as a mechanic and then Ohlins technician before enjoying instant 250cc title success as crew chief for Dani Pedrosa, in 2004 and 2005.

The pair remained together for the move to MotoGP with Repsol Honda, winning 26-races and finishing title runner-up on three occasions by the end of 2014. The Austrian then joined his local manufacturer, where he was initially given the title of 'Vice President Onroad' for the Motorsport department.

In practical terms that meant overseeing KTM's road racing grand prix activities, whilst building up the new MotoGP team and overseeing an extensive programme of track tests for the RC16.

"First of all I want to say I'm super happy to see [the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 bikes on stage]. We worked very hard, all the company was working like crazy in the last year to have a moment like this and start the project," Leitner said at the team launch.

The Austrian added that KTM had reacted positively to issues highlighted by its wild-card entry in last November's Valencia MotoGP and that new race signings Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro were pleased with the 'direction' taken.

"At the Valencia race we had some issues, we tried to fix them, the designers, everyone, worked very hard and we went in the correct direction. I think the riders feel the same, this is the most important!" Leitner said.

Having worked at Repsol Honda for so many seasons, Leitner is under no illusions as to size of the task KTM have taken on in MotoGP.

"There are many challenges," he said. "The most important thing is that we keep these two boys motivated and that we can deliver things that help with the lap time and feeling on the track. And that is I think the main goal that we are all working for."

One more test remains until KTM starts its first full MotoGP season, in Qatar on March 26.

Unlike the five other MotoGP manufacturers, KTM is using a steel trellis frame (instead of aluminium twin-spar) and WP (instead of Ohlins) suspension.

As a new MotoGP manufacturer, KTM is exempt from the new fairing homologation rules, which allow only one update to the fairing and fender during the season.

The factory can therefore afford to wait and see what the other manufacturers come up with in response to the new winglet ban, before deciding which direction to pursue...

By Peter McLaren

 

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