One of the most obvious technical changes to emerge during the post-season MotoGP tests at Valencia and Jerez was the new KTM frame.

Unique in using a tubular steel chassis rather than the twin-spar aluminium designs of its rivals, KTM's latest frame seems to blend the two approaches by use of rectangular-shaped steel side beams.

Test rider and 31-time MotoGP winner Dani Pedrosa has helped develop the new frame, two versions of which were available for factory star Pol Espargaro to try at Valencia and then Jerez.

The first version of the frame was painted orange, with a black second evolution delivered at the same time.

"I’m super-happy to have a second chassis like that right away," said Espargaro, who spent much of the Jerez test on the latest frame:

"[The black frame is] the newest one, maybe not the biggest improvement, but it's already a small step better [than the orange].

"I have also done quite good lap times with the old bike, but this is just the beginning of this [beam] chassis. For sure it's not going to be the last one.

"We need to study what we are doing better and worse and then just make it better and better.

"In that way, we have an advantage over the others because with our metal tube chassis we are much faster [manufacturing] than the others. This is going to be so helpful for us."

The first 'orange' version of the KTM beam frame.

The speed with which KTM can build a new chassis saw a reputed 17 different versions delivered to the race team during 2018.

"It felt like a thousand chassis!" Espargaro smiled. "This year everything has calmed down quite a lot because we are not in the same position as the first or second year, so this year maybe we tested two or three chassis.

"Which is a lot for a factory like us, but not as much as at the beginning and we need to do it to improve. The good point is that every time we test it goes better."

Espargaro said they still needed to refine the settings for the new-style chassis,

"The new bike has a lot of positive things and some negative, such as front [corner] entry. That’s why I crashed. It's normal when the bike is so new. You need to work on settings."

That Monday spill also wrecked the latest RC16 fairing: "We did quite a good step here with the aerodynamics, we tested a new package that is very good, but I destroyed it! But we got good info."

Despite the accident, Espargaro maintains that "the best part of our bike is the front, on the brakes the bike is stable and we can go deep in braking. Normally the problems we have come from the back of the bike, low grip and low turning."

It is those areas that the beam chassis is designed to address. So far it has proven to be better in "turning, traction and stability".

Last season's 2019 KTM RC16.

Since KTM, like Aprilia, is currently exempt from the engine-freeze regulations, there is also not so much pressure to define the 2020 engine over the winter.

"We tested one [engine upgrade] in Valencia which was very good, super consistent on the lap time and also on the straight, top speed," Espargaro said. "But we need to wait until Malaysia [to try it again], because KTM needs to check everything."

With rookie team-mate Brad Binder learning the MotoGP ropes on the 2019 bike, Pedrosa has been on hand to help with the 2020 prototype. However, the Spaniard was forced to miss the opening day at Jerez due to sickness.

Pedrosa's absence didn't change much for Espargaro on day one since: "My schedule is super busy anyway, so it doesn't change much because I cannot test any more things than now!

"But for sure for the company it's not good to have one rider less, the other two riders are fast but still learning. It would be better with Dani, but sometimes this happens."

Pedrosa returned to complete eleven laps before the rain arrived on day two.

The Sepang shakedown test, for which the KTM race riders are eligible due to the concession rules, takes place on February 2-4 followed by the official test from 7-9.

Espargaro is set to ride for all but one of those days: "We will have five days in Malaysia which will be a long test."

Although unable to repeat last year's wet podium, Espargaro scored 100 points - double the amount of his previous best at KTM - on the way to eleventh in the world championship.

 

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