Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith finished just outside of the top 15 on their KTM debuts in the Qatar MotoGP.

So what's needed for the RC16 to score its first MotoGP points?

"Basically learning how to use the power in the right way; get the biggest amount of power on the ground and go forward rather than wheelying, spinning and pumping," explained Smith.

A significant part of getting the power to the ground is engine character and KTM is currently unique in using an even-firing 'screamer' design, rather than the unequal 'big bang' firing system.

"There is a reason why everyone is going to a 'big bang' theory type of engine and a reason why people are going heavier on crankshafts, flywheels and stuff like that and it is certainly not to slow down the motorcycle," Smith said. "MotoGP at the moment seems to be about who can use the most power and go forward, rather than use power and spin. That's something we are continuing to play with in our team."

KTM's engine designer recently revealed he could have a big bang powerplant ready in three months , if the decision was made

Will KTM go that way?

"I don't know what their plan is and I expect to have a new engine configuration at some point this year, but exactly which direction I'm not sure; it's up to the engineers to decide," Smith said. "I think a bike needs to be less aggressive in terms of acceleration and electronics and those types of things, but where they come from I'm not 100% sure.

"With the next four races we will stick with what we have and try to refine that as best as possible and I think we will have some new parts for the Jerez test."

'Everything changes every lap'

Partly as a result of the engine character, both Smith and Espargaro have found that the RC16 needs to be ridden aggressively, in stark contrast to their previous Yamaha machinery.

"It is a little bit harder to come back [to being aggressive] but it is my natural instinct to ride like that," Smith said. "So it is not as difficult, even after four years when you are trying to change your style [for the Yamaha]. I'm not as aggressive as Pol, but the lap-times seem to be the same or not much faster.

"The biggest thing for me is rear brake: you need to use it a lot on this bike compared to the Yamaha. Through the rights and lefts and all the way through the corners to help the bike turn and that's the biggest difference."

Espargaro, who was 4.2s from Tito Rabat and a world championship point in Qatar, stated:

"I feel much more [at home on the KTM]. It is much easier to ride than the Yamaha but the only problem is that we are slow! This bike is quite different: if you push you get the lap-time. It is not like the Yamaha where you have to ride smoother to lower the lap-time. The philosophy is black-and-white.

"The chassis is for sure different because you cannot turn as fast as the Yamaha and the engine is - wow - so different. It looks like this one is working better at high RPM while the Yamaha is at low RPM, so they can take profit more of the grip in the beginning of the corner because they stress the tyre less.

"We still need to work but this is the beginning. The bike still doesn't have the personality: we are building it. We are improving it and we know what it will be.

"The engine means that it is more physically demanding to ride than the Yamaha but it means the rider can make the extra difference... the Yamaha looked like you needed to ride it into rails. I don't know if that will change with Maverick but when I was in Tech 3 it was like this; there was just one line and you had to follow it. With this bike there is more freedom and you can ride where you want.

"We are spinning a lot and I am sure we are not putting enough pressure on the rear, so we can use the soft tyre for longer. I know Yamaha and other factories are struggling with the soft to go the whole race. For us we need it even softer to be perfect: so we are not pushing the tyre enough.

"To hold the same line every lap is nearly impossible. Physically it is tiring and psychologically you need to adapt, much more than the Yamaha where everything was the same from the first to the last lap.

"On this bike everything changes every lap: it is like a fight and you need to fight until the end."

Smith and Espargaro will be back in action for KTM at this weekend's round in Argentina, the first event the RC16 has faced without a prior test.

By Peter McLaren

Cal Crutchlow - Career Profile by Crash_net


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