KTM changed tactics for 2022: 'New bike was not the right philosophy'

'We had a new bike which was not the right philosophy' - why KTM called a halt to its planned 2022 MotoGP bike last June in favour of 'small changes' to the current RC16.
KTM , Sepang MotoGP test, 5 February 2022
KTM , Sepang MotoGP test, 5 February 2022
© Gold and Goose Photography

While working through 'boxes of new parts' is often the focus of MotoGP pre-season testing, last week Miguel Oliveira hinted at a different approach from KTM for 2022:

"Technically the bike is going to have a few changes, a few evolutions, but the main thing that we are looking for to improve is on the set-up... We believe there is still a lot of room to find speed and more consistency in the races with the current package and a few little changes can translate into much better results."

After day one of the Sepang test, the Portuguese star explained the background to that decision and why KTM is focused on fine-tuning its existing package.

"The project of the new [2022] bike got held up in about June. We had a new bike which was not the right philosophy," Oliveira said. "[Then] at the end of the championship, it’s hard to make new parts without a direction.

"We could have a whole lot of boxes with new parts, but it doesn’t mean they are better. We could be trying and shooting in every direction. We don’t want to do that.

"We want to have a similar bike to '21. With small adjustments in parts and setting we can arrive at a better performance.

"It might appear the changes aren’t very big. But small changes that we are doing make us believe we have more potential to have a better bike this season. Then with the new head of the project, Fabiano [Sterlacchini], we could aim for bigger changes in the future."

In other words, as KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer recently said, "the race team should race" and leave the burden of extensive testing and bike development to the likes of Dani Pedrosa.

"So far there's not a huge difference in our bike from last year to this year," confirmed Oliveira's factory team-mate Brad Binder.

"Last year we threw a load of different things [at it] throughout the year. We didn’t find something that was really notably better. I think the guys came with a bit of a different approach for this test.

"I think it’s the first time I got through our entire test plan in a day! Normally there isn't enough time to get through all the things we want to try.

"I like the new strategy. It’s a little bit more to pinpoint our problems. Less a roll in the dark and see what happens. I’m quite happy with the way it’s going so far.

"We’re focussing on two or three key elements. And we’ll try to improve those. If we could find 0.3 or 0.4 it would go a long way. We’re focussed on finding some small things that will have a big benefit at the end of the day.

"We have a couple of small parts. I tried the new aero, which changes the character of the bike a lot. That’s positive. It gives us room to improve once we start to fine tune it. I’m happy with that step.

"I hope tomorrow we can see some improvements. If not we still have time to work at it. Qatar is a month away. Looking forward to try and claw our way closer to the front."

If there is one thing Binder wants from the refinements it's, "more drive grip out of the slow corners. We're struggling with spinning at the beginning. It really hurst us. We lose a lot of time in the first 200m exiting onto the straight. All he metres we lose we don’t close up again. I’d like to improve that.

"On my riding I can definitely be more precise. I think that’s normal after a long break. I’d like to find my markers a bit better and put together clean laps when I really need to."

Tech3 rookie Raul Fernandez was the top KTM rider on day one, in 13th (+1.311s) and a fraction ahead of Binder, who struggled with "strange" pumping from his first set of tyres and, combined with a later fall, was forced to spend most of the day on old rubber.

Oliveira was 16th (+1.574s) having set his best time in the middle of the day, on mediums. Fernandez's rookie team-mate Remy Gardner, riding with a recently fractured wrist, was 24th out of the 27 riders.

2022 will be KTM's fifth full season in the premier-class. The Austrian manufacturer won three races in 2020, then two more victories (one each for Oliveira and Binder) in 2021, but needs more consistency to achieve company CEO Stefan Pierer's goal of fighting for the title top-three this year.

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