The future looks very bright at KTM as Bradley Smith hinted at the rate of improvement he expects in the coming months, the Englishman believing the 2018 RC16 could close to within half a second per lap of MotoGP’s leading names.

Smith used a three-day test at Jerez to confirm new chassis and swingarm parts that were introduced at Valencia the week before, as well as sampling a host of electronics settings aimed at improving late-race performance.

But both Smith and team-mate Pol Espargaro suggested a fairly considerable change on the RC16 is coming for ’18, with factory test rider Mika Kallio expected to test that bike during the first week of December.

If the machine improves on where Smith has suggested – transferring the bike mid-corner while maintaining corner speed – the Englishman believes he and Espargaro could be as little as half a second off the fastest times next year - a halving of his current deficit.

Identifying areas in need of work, Smith said, “That next step of being able to go into the corner and get the speed going. Our bike is very solid going into the corner. I feel secure with the front tyre. It’s just that transfer of getting back to the neutral part of the bike and onto the rear tyre as soon as possible.

“If we have a look at the fast guys out there it’s the Honda and the Ducati. We know both of those bikes do that very well. It’s still a continuing progress to get that next step there.

“I think the next big change will dictate the rate of progression. It depends how Mika’s test goes in two or three weeks and how that affects the problems that we have. You can bring different parts and different ideas, but if they don’t touch the parts that you need them to touch, and if they’re not matching with the tyres then the rate of progression slows down.

“We’re making sure we’re concentrating on the right things at the right time. If Mika’s test goes well and it touches our area then I believe we’ll make that step forward to only half a second off.

“Once your half a second off then you’re in the mix and that’s where you want to be. Then it’s the final refinement. Right now we’re a tenth to twelfth place bike. We would like to, before we start next season, be inside the top ten. Then we’ll chip away toward the top six.”

Smith finished the final day at Jerez with the seventh fastest time, 0.7s back of pace setter Jonathan Rea and leading MotoGP name Andrea Iannone.

“It’s been a bit more of what I needed from the test,” Smith said. “Because we didn’t bring many new parts with us, the main thing for us was to focus on the rear end of the bike, and how to get more grip in the second part of races. That was my main focus at the Valencia test and also here as well.

“The last couple of races I was strong initially but then tailed away. I knew we made some important steps. The one-off lap time wasn’t the main focus. I think I did my best lap yesterday morning and also this morning on lap four. The rest of the day was like, the lap time is over and done with and now we’ll focus on the testing side.

“We focussed on rear shock settings and rear swingarms. The last five days we confirmed which direction to go in the future. Obviously two different race tracks. The best thing about Jerez is you have fast and slow corners. You have hard braking and fast ones so you have a good idea of what’s working, what’s not. I think we improved and made some good steps forward.

“Riding is coming along better and better which I’m happy about. I would’ve liked to have the bike I have now in Valencia or in Phillip Island, but that’s the whole point of progression and improving. We’re a second off. It’s a little too much for me. It’s also acceptable at this time of year with the plan that we had.”

And where does he believe he can find that missing one second? “I wasn’t actually able to follow many guys out there,” he said. “I think having a good crack at it was half a second. Actually throwing a couple of tyres at it like a few guys did… There was a bit of a qualifying session out there. Pol did a 38.2s. There’s 0.4s with this motorcycle.

“Then the final 0.6s is still a little bit of a question mark. It’s something we’re trying to understand. My understanding with Michelin is that it’s in the corner speed more than anything else.

“So getting into the corner is one thing, but going back on the throttle as soon as possible and maintaining that corner speed – so don’t drop too much and then squirt it out. It’s being able to go in fast and then maintaining this arcing line. That’s still something we’re continuing to work on.”


Loading Comments...