After steady progress during their previous three seasons in MotoGP, KTM made a 'huge step' with its 2020 machine.

That was illustrated not only in terms of race results - one podium prior to 2020, then eight rostrums including three breakthrough victories - but the world championship ranking for the factory's lead rider Pol Espargaro.

The Spaniard had been classified 17th, 14th and then 11th overall prior to last season, where he vaulted to fifth in the final standings, equal on points with fourth-place Andrea Dovizioso.

"Yes. We are very happy about the season," said Red Bull KTM team manager Mike Leitner. "We made a huge step from our third to fourth season in MotoGP. We felt that already in the winter tests, that something changed on our bike.

"But then the season was delayed by Covid so we couldn’t show anything. After that we were the first company back on track for testing, then finally the races started and in Jerez already Pol was performing very well and we saw Brad was also fast.

"As the season went on we saw clearly the performance of the bike made a big step, especially over a race distance.

"We also had some good qualifying and the [3] victories have been a big highlight for us of course. We are very happy about this season and we continue to work hard to make a better package for the riders, looking forward to the future."

The departure of Espargaro to Repsol Honda means KTM needed to tweak its MotoGP rider line-up for 2021, with Oliveira moving from Tech3 to the future team alongside fellow race winner Brad Binder while Danilo Petrucci arrives from Ducati to ride alongside Iker Lecuona.

"We'll have two very fast riders in the factory team with Miguel and Brad and also with Iker we have a very strong young rider in Tech3 and an experienced rider in Danilo will arrive," Leitner said.

"So we will to get the best from these four riders and push the maximum"

Where did KTM's huge step come from?

In an interview with Paddock-GP.com, Tech3's Guy Coulon - who celebrated two race wins with Miguel Oliveira, during his final season as a MotoGP crew chief - explained that the new rectangular 'beam frame', which was developed with input from superstar test rider Dani Pedrosa, was perhaps the most radical change.

"The engine was the same, except for a management change. Anyway, it almost evolves from race to race, but the engine was the same," Coulon said. "The way of producing the frame, on the other hand, has changed radically. But it's still steel, and it's still orange, according to the boss's directions!

"The suspension improved, although it was already good. Aerodynamics also improved. So you are making progress like every year.

“In terms of the chassis, the bike has made progress on what we had requested as a priority, that is to say on weight. She went from being significantly overweight to being under the weight limit, so we have to add ballast. So that [weight loss] is already free [performance] everywhere!

A less obvious form of progress was the way in which KTM engineers made the RC16 much more user-friendly for the mechanics.

"The second point we asked for concerned the speed of making adjustments. It went from very, very slow to fast! Before, there were a lot of adjustment operations that you couldn't do during a session, so you would wait to try the next session," said Coulon.

"Now, in the three minutes it takes for a rider's debriefing, we can do everything: the swingarm position, the steering column angle, and whatever else you want, it all happens very quickly. So instead of waiting to make an adjustment for the next session, you try it on the next run and have your answer right away. And that was essential!

"Apart from that, the engineers worked really well on the bike's character: it stops well, it turns well, there is traction… It's a good bike!

"Before it was physical, because it was difficult to change direction. In 2019, we also sometimes had trouble finishing the races with enough tyre left, while in 2020 we never had a problem: we always had reasonable and controlled wear. Also because we were able to adapt quite well to the new Michelin [rear] tyre."

 

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