As the sun went down at the close of a long, tiring season Pol Espargaro’s enthusiasm was still very much in check after a positive three-day test, the Catalan excitedly pointing to upcoming changes which should push KTM’s MotoGP project further forward.

Espargaro may have been “tired”, “completely wasted” even, on Friday evening after confirming the suitability of new chassis, swingarms and electronics settings for the RC16. The lap times and rhythm were strong, with the former Moto2 world champion ending Friday third fastest, 0.2s back of pace setter Jonathan Rea.

Impressive, no doubt. “It looks impossible after one year to be as close as we are,” said an enthused Espargaro. Yet it was comments regarding further upcoming changes that piqued the interest. Without mentioning specifics, KTM will have prepared something fairly different for the end of January, he said. 

“Next year something very different is coming and I hope that it’s going to be – maybe not the same step we did because that was around one second – something interesting,” Espargaro teased. Test rider Mika Kallio may even try these changes at a test in December. 

“[I’m] Tired! I’m completely wasted,” he said on Friday. “I have nothing remaining inside of me. I feel really pleased. We’ve tested many things in these three days. It’s a very good way to finish the season. All the team is happy about the progression we did in Valencia.

“Also here, the lap time, we are not so far from where we want to be. I think the rhythm we are almost even better than the fast lap. I feel really good, really happy.”

On the components he tested through the exhaustive three days, he said, “Many! All the bike. It was testing the back of the bike – swingarm, chassis, engines – we have many things to test.

“Overall we need to use this test to get input into the electronics for the guys in the workshop in Austria. It’s going to be a long winter. With everything we tested, they have a lot of things to test and understand. It was important, yes.”

Even by normal standards, KTM’s impressive debut season has been a tiring one. Regular tests have dotted the days and weeks around this season’s 18 races, leaving Espargaro in need of some rest.

So what of ’18? “Next year is going to be as crazy as this year,” he said. “We are not done. Our bike is still too fresh. Last year I was talking about how we didn’t know the character of this bike. More or less we’re starting to know it. The biggest change is going to come in Malaysia.

“After, the other bigger changes are going to come midseason. So I think maybe we are not going to be in a rush at some races to test new things as we were this year. Maybe we can be more relaxed and play with what we have now, which is a good base.

“But I think we’re going to use many new things on the bike. Around this race in the season, the bike is going to be different. I can promise you the bike is not going to be the one that we used at this test.

“It keeps us smiling, pumped and super happy. We know that many things are coming. For sure we don’t know if they’re going to be better or worse but at least we know in the factory they are going full throttle.”

What does he hope KTM can improve with these changes? “On acceleration,” he said. “On a bit of traction. Also in the turning in fast corners. When we touch the throttle we are not going as close as the other factories. We are missing something there. But this is honestly something we think we can fix for next year. We are really optimistic for next year. I think we will manage.”

Espargaro was “super pumped” after the recent two-day test at Valencia saw him trim what he believed to be half a second off his pace from the season finale. Jerez was even better, he explained, as he edged ever closer to the times of the leading riders.

“My god, it’s really different,” he replied when asked to compare the performance with his last appearance at Jerez in May. “Here, remember, we came already with this type of [big-bang] engine. We’ve been I think one second faster. OK, the asphalt is new but it was ridiculous [the difference in pace] between here and Jerez [race]. We know that now we have the most difficult job, which is to improve that last second.

“We thought that in Valencia and I think we are three tenths closer now than at that test. Even a little bit more, especially the rhythm. It looks impossible after one year to be as close as we are - to be touching the Suzukis and close to the Ducatis. We know the Ducatis in the winter; they fly. We must be happy.”


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