KTM has become the first MotoGP team back on track since the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the opening Qatar round in early March.

The Austrian manufacturer arranged a two-day private test at its local Red Bull Ring circuit, attended by Pol Espargaro and test rider Dani Pedrosa, to focus on set-up and re-familiarisation with the RC16, last used at the Qatar test on February 24.

Over 20 team members - most of which travelled inside the country, but also from neighbouring territories - were present to support Espargaro and Pedrosa. All tested negative for COVID-19 before resuming their MotoGP activities after a three-month pause.

However Espargaro’s rookie team-mate Brad Binder was not among them, with travel restrictions currently preventing his departure from South Africa.

"I don’t think I have ever been so long without a bike – especially one for competition – so it was a little bit difficult in the first few runs yesterday but I was quickly up to the kind of rhythm I was setting in Qatar," Espargaro said.

"It was great to get back in action and I think we all felt that: there were a lot of smiling faces in the box.

"Technically we made some improvements. The first priority was to get our feeling back with the bike but we also brought quite a lot to test and this was interesting.

"The good weather meant we could play with a lot on the bike and we improved mostly with the chassis but also some electronics. I’m really happy. Now just to look forward to the first race.”

KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer added: “Seeing the bikes on the racetrack - where they belong - was great for all of us. It was a pleasure to see the happy faces of the riders and the crew but then it was back to work and back to normal.

"We tried to make the most of the time at the Red Bull Ring. With Pol we were able to check his 2020 bike on a new track and with Dani we ran a very extensive test program.

"But the most important thing was also the significance: we are making great strides. There is definitely an interesting Grand Prix calendar ahead of us and it is time to prepare our team for it.

"In the past weeks and months we had been very radical with our response to the virus situation through the closure of our motorsport department, but I promised the team that we would be the first to go out again. We were finally able to keep that promise here at the Red Bull Ring.”

KTM is already planning another private test session in the near future as it continues to prepare resources and material for all four of its MotoGP riders - Espargaro and Binder at the Factory team plus Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona at Tech3 - in anticipation of the belated first grand prix, currently pencilled in for Jerez on July 19.

“I’m really happy we could organise these two days here in Spielberg and get the MotoGP team back on track," said Red Bull KTM Race Manager Mike Leitner.

"It was a big effort to get it done but we tested everybody, made it happen and I think it was key for the mentality of the company, the team, everyone in the racing department and especially the riders.

"Thanks go to the team for making this happen and to Spielberg for letting us test here. We now hope to have more news on the calendar in the middle of June and we are really looking forward to go racing again.”

 

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