KTM test rider Mika Kallio hailed an improved feeling from the RC16, aided by new parts, as he repeated his fifth-place feat in an official MotoGP practice session.

The first occasion had been on a wet track in FP1 at Aragon, but he sensationally matched it in the dry Saturday morning session, sending him straight to the Qualifying 2 pole position shootout.

Unfortunately a late fall left the Finn twelfth and last in Q2, but only 0.836s from pole and the top KTM. Race regulars Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith qualified 14th and 23rd respectively.

"That was a fast crash, but we were lucky that there was no real damage on the bike and I'm fine," Kallio said. "But I'm disappointed with the mistake because I felt there was something more coming. I lost the last minutes and couldn't improve my lap time.

"I thought that we had a chance to be a few positions ahead of where we are now. But anyway; a really positive two days.

"I knew if we did a good job we had a chance. Yesterday, okay was different conditions, but I had a really good feeling with the bike and we confirmed that this morning with the slick tyres.

"As we saw in the morning the speed is there and also now in qualifying, after the first laps my position was sixth, seventh, eighth.

"Of course somehow I'm a little surprised, I thought this track would be quite complicated for us. We've been here for testing and knew it's not the best layout for our bike.

"But now with these new parts we really make a step ahead. So with the feeling I have now, I'm not too surprised. It will be quite interesting to see what we can do in the race.

"I think we have some good chance to at least be similar to where we were in Austria [10th] but if you look where we were this morning then anything can happen. So I need a good start and give full throttle to see the flag as soon as possible."

Although, like Espargaro, Kallio was coy on what exactly the new parts are, the Finn suggested they are chassis related and at the rear of the bike.

"Basically we are looking for rear tyre life. Of course we are not sure how it will be yet, because this will be the first race with these parts," he said. "For me it was more that we improved a few areas where we’ve been struggling for most of the year. Basically the turning and the handling.

"Now the bike seems to be a little bit lighter to change direction and the turning at the apex is slightly better. Those things bring the lap time and hopefully help us a little with the tyre life.

"I mean, we think the tyre life is better because the turning is better, so we can pick up the bike earlier. We will see tomorrow."

Kallio has his sights set on trying to secure a KTM race seat for 2018, having jumped into contention after a tenth-place finish in his previous wild-card outing in Austria prompted hints from factory boss Stefan Pierer that there could be a change in race-test rider roles.

However, the latest signals have been more positive towards Smith, who recently had a change of crew chief, and admitted he messed up in qualifying.

"At the end of the day, the comment from Mr Pierer put everyone on edge. I know what's going on inside of the team. I know that the team are behind me and see the good moments!

"Today was one of the bad ones in qualifying, I hold my hands up and tomorrow I can't make those mistakes. Certainly inside the team things are good, things are strong, I just need to bring it to tomorrow's race."


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