On paper, KTM had the toughest pre-season of any MotoGP manufacturer, with an RC16 only finishing in the end-of-day top eight once during testing at Sepang and Mandalika.

However, the KTM riders weren't far from the top in terms of lap time.

Brad Binder signed-off from Indonesia eleventh on the combined timesheets but only 0.514s from Pol Espargaro's Honda. Factory team-mate Miguel Oliveira was a mere 0.046s slower, in 15th.

Over at the satellite Tech3 KTM team, the all-rookie line-up of Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner were 22nd and 23rd but within 1.538s of Espargaro.

The competition looks just as close in terms of average pace and Tech3 team manager Herve Poncharal is eager to see what his new riders can do when the red lights go out in this weekend's Qatar season opener.

“Both Remy and Raul did a lot of laps during the winter tests, with an interesting race pace for two rookies, although they both still have a lot to learn," Poncharal said.

"Testing is testing, but nothing can match racing, and the next step is to see them on the starting grid and see how they perform on a race distance.

"KTM engineers, led by Fabiano Sterlacchini, did a great job this winter to develop the RC16 bike, and the 2022 model is a big improvement compared to the package we had last year, so I am looking forward to see the rookies going full gas when the light goes green on Sunday."

Although both Red Bull KTM and Tech3 have won races since the start of 2020, the RC16 is yet to deliver the consistency needed to challenge for the title top three - company boss Stefan Pierer's stated aim for this year.

As such, KTM has changed technical tactics for this year, opting to pinpoint individual areas of bike development rather than make sweeping changes.

An improvement in rear traction on corner exit is one of the qualities being sought and Qatar, traditionally one of KTM's toughest events (their top rider was 8th and then 13th in last year's back-to-back season openers) will offer the first chance to gauge progress over a race distance.