After discovering changes made for the new RC16 cost them heavily in other areas during the Sepang test, Bradley Smith felt KTM got 'more into the mix' at Buriram.

But team-mate and test rider Mika Kallio was less satisfied, the Finn still fighting with the same issues as Malaysia.

The riders had been reluctant to say what exactly was the problem while at Sepang, but it has since emerged that efforts to make the KTM less physical to turn have hurt its braking and corner entry capability.

"We finished the test in Sepang and weren't quite sure why we didn't have the feeling we had towards the end of last year, where the bike was obviously pushing for the top twelve," Smith said in Thailand.

The problem in Malaysia had been: "Kind of corner entry. We were really struggling on the brakes [at Sepang] and that's one thing the KTM was so strong at and we had a lot of good feeling with.

"So to suddenly not have that, it was 'hang on a minute, what are we missing here?'

"So we were able to go over all the numbers and get that back to how we wanted it.

"We were able to regain the bike balance on the brakes that for some reason we were missing at Sepang, but we had last year. So we were able to rectify that.

"I was pleased because especially at this track you need it; at Turn 1, Turn 3, the last corner.

"We also had the new aero packages. If you can't beat them, join them, right? It's a tool that is available to us so why not use it. We tried something quite radical, as most people would have seen, in Malaysia.

"We decided to tone it down a little bit here with just some add on bits. Both were working and both interesting for the information. As always, main target is less wheelie and more drive out of the corners and we were able to achieve that with both of them.

"We also had different front forks here from WP and they’ve made some good progress as well. I think Mika had a chassis to try here, just to kind of give the guys a bit more of a direction in terms of what to bring to Qatar and what's going to be the next development process.

"But I think we’ve got on top of things. Malaysia, for some reason, we missed a trick. But here we were back on top of things and going in the right direction. That pleases me."

However Kallio felt the Sepang issues remained unsolved for his riding style.

"Of course different riders feel different issues, because of the riding style and the height and weight of the rider," he said. "Bradley said they could fix and we could see that he was constantly quite okay on the lap times, I was struggling more.

"That's why I say I'm not too satisfied still, for the pace and lap time we did.

"For my riding we still need to work to improve basically the same problem we had in Malaysia.

"We are missing something on the front and it's still too complicated to stop the bike. Definitely we found something interesting, which can help in the future for us, so now we are just analysing everything we have done here."

All three KTM riders had been closely matched in Malaysia, setting a best lap time between 1.4-1.7s from the top and ranked 17th (Espargaro), 18th (Kallio) and 19th (Smith).

It was a similar story in Thailand, where Kallio was called up in place of the injured Espargaro. Smith was 18th quickest and Kallio 19th, the gap on the shorter track dropping to 1.140 and 1.388s respectively.

"Although the layout is a lot closer here, we've seen some great lap times and we've also seen that we are quite close to a few of the manufacturers that we were not close to in Malaysia," Smith said.

"It's still not where we want to be, but much better than Malaysia. I felt that our lap times were more competitive, our pace more competitive, we are just missing a little bit on the one fast lap."

With the competition so close - the top 16 riders were within one-second in Thailand - and tyre endurance less of an issue at the end of a race, the ability to set a fast lap time from the word go is crucial.

"Getting into Qualifying 2, being inside that top 12, making a start, get inside the top 10 and then try and hang on in there. That's what you need," Smith said.

"Tyres are dropping less and less and the start and the first five laps are crucial. There are going to be some tracks where we can race ourselves back into contention, but at the end of the day you need to be able to start there and hang on in there, follow the top guys.

"Our objective is still the one-lap pace, that needs to improve, because we need to be in a good solid position on the starting grid."

The Englishman, a best of tenth during KTM's first MotoGP season, also thinks testing performance can deceptive due to the amount of time to find a bike set-up.

"Looking into testing, it’s amazing how the same riders can ride here with no pressure and do a lap time and then you never see that again during a race weekend," he said.

"It's getting less and less like that in MotoGP but it still exists.

"Obviously eight hours and three days to set-up a motorcycle in testing is a lot easier than two 45 minute sessions with a bit of damp weather.

"I'm pleased with the work that we are doing. The target was always to get back to where we left off last year by round one. I don't think we are far away from that. Although some riders have jumped up ahead of us.

"So we need to continue working in these remaining three days of testing [in Qatar] to try and get back that 0.3 that I would say is probably what we are off at the moment. But nevertheless pleased with the work we done."

Returning to a topic discussed at Sepang, about the importance of rider coaches, Smith indicated he would like to work with Randy Mamola once again.

"Of course I feel it's missing. Last year in particular. But even this year," he said.

"The great thing is we've got a team manager [Mike Leitner] that has great experience from that point of view and not shy about going out around the race track and giving his opinion. He's seen plenty of riders from now.

"So we have half of one [roder coach] let's say with him, when he can actually get out there and do it. So we are obviously lucky to have Mike here but it would be nice of course to have a fulltime one.

"Unfortunately I know the one that I want and it's not possible at the moment"

The same one you had before?

"Of course."

The Qatar MotoGP test takes place from March 1-3.

Kallio doesn’t expect to ride at Losail, with Espargaro due to return from back surgery.


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