The testing season is nearly done. The MotoGP grid assembles in Qatar for three final days of testing, in preparation for the season ahead. Much has already been done, but there is still a lot of work to get through.
Every factory, every team, every rider has things they want to try, in the hope of improving their chances in 2017. In most cases, those are just minor details, the nuances and finesses that will give hundredths of a second, not tenths. But not always.
There are always a couple of last-minute gambles to take, big ticket items that need one last decision. At Qatar this year, it is Honda’s turn to make a big decision, on which spec of engine to use for the season.
They tested one spec at Valencia, then another one at Sepang and Phillip Island, and at a one-day private test at Jerez.
It looks like they have made their decision, to go with the revised big bang engine tested for the first time at Sepang. But the cool air and hard acceleration of Qatar will be the deciding factor.
To double check, they will be bringing an extra engine to give to Jack Miller, the Marc VDS Honda rider, who has so far only used the Valencia engine.
If the Repsol riders, LCR’s Cal Crutchlow, and Jack Miller all agree, then HRC will pull the trigger on their latest engine, and race with it in 2017.
KTM is the new kid on the block, for the 2017 MotoGP season – and it is clear from the test times at Phillip Island that the Austrian brand has some work left to do on its V4-powered race bike. The 2017 KTM RC16 is notably slower than its competitors, though shows a great deal of promise – especially as just a newcomer to the series. KTM’s riders, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, will be looking to tame KTM’s monstrously powerful engine into something that can put the power to the tarmac, and they will also be looking to refine the steel-tube chassis into a proper scalpel on two wheels. In other words, the 2017 season will be a development season. Though a rookie season it will be, KTM’s partnership with Red Bull means that the squad is no stranger when it comes to marketing and presentation.
On a normal day, the fastest rider at the end of a day of testing is paraded proudly in front of the press, and given his chance to explain what a good job the team and manufacturer was doing, how they were not really pushing for a lap time, and feign a certain modesty while privately gloating at how they crushed their rivals.
But this was not a normal day. The fastest man in Sepang on Monday slipped out of the circuit in virtual anonymity. After all, he is merely a test rider, and test riders don’t usually talk to the media. We journalists, snobs that we are, don’t waste our precious time on test riders.
In this case, however, it was not the media not wanting to talk to the test rider, it was the test rider not wanting to speak to the media.
One of the reasons Casey Stoner retired from racing was because he was sick of the media circus, of spending his life living out of a suitcase and answering stupid and prying questions from idiots like me.
But he still loves challenging himself on a MotoGP bike, and trying to see just how fast he can go. And Ducati are happy to pay him handsomely for the privilege. After Monday, who can blame them?
We knew from the outset of KTM’s MotoGP project with the RC16 race bike that the “Ready to Race” brand would also release the KTM RC16 as a track-only model for customers, which would cost six-figures in European currency. Talking to Germany’s Speedweek publication, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has tipped some more information on the “consumer version” of the KTM RC16 race bike. Good news too, as Pierer says that KTM hopes to make at least 100 units of the machine for consumers, and that KTM wants to keep the customer RC16 as close to the MotoGP bike as possible. Of course, the 270hp V4 power plant isn’t quite achievable in a customer platform, but KTM hints at a 240hp peak power figure from the 90° V4 “screamer” engine, which should do quite nicely.
The media is a fickle beast. Normally, journalists and TV only have eyes for the top half of the timesheets. Or more realistically, the top half of the top half of the timesheets.
As Valentino Rossi once joked one weekend during his time at Ducati, when only four or five journalists turned up to speak to him, rather than the thirty or forty he used to see at Yamaha, “So this is what it’s like to finish seventh.”
If media interest beyond tenth place is sparse, it is absolutely nonexistent for last place. Normally, the rider who finishes last has no visits from journalists, nor will anyone come to speak to their crew chief. But Friday at Valencia was anything but normal.
A brand new manufacturer joining the grid is anything but normal, however. And even when the rider on the new bike finishes last, the media crowd waiting outside the garage is seriously impressive.
The back of the KTM garage was thronged with journalists, first to speak to Mika Kallio about his day on the RC16, and then to grill Kallio’s crew chief Paul Trevathan about the bike, and the problems they encountered.
And so the 2016 MotoGP season is nearly at an end. Though the major honors have been awarded, there are still the final few t’s to cross and i’s to dot. We have our three champions – Johann Zarco the last to wrap up the title in Moto2 at Sepang.
Honda are hot favorites to win the constructors’ championship, while Movistar Yamaha hold a narrow lead in the team championship. Cal Crutchlow has a commanding 17-point lead in the battle for top independent rider. Second place in both Moto2 and Moto3 is still up for grabs.
In reality, these don’t matter all that much. Once the championship is settled, the riders on the grid race for pride. And given that we are talking about the best professional motorcycle racers in the world, there is an awful lot of pride at stake.
So the battle at Valencia will be just as fierce as anything that has come before. If anything, it will be even more fierce, given that nobody has very much to lose.
They will need an extra dash of abandon at Valencia. The circuit is pushed up against a hillside, and encircled by grandstands, cramming a serpentine four kilometer track into a very tight space. Reaching the required Grand Prix length requires a lot of corners, and that drops the average speed.
Valencia is the slowest circuit on the calendar, and with so many tight corners, passing spots are few and far between.
Turn 1 is an obvious candidate, a hard-braking left turn at the end of a long straight. Turn 6, another sharp left hander after a short straight. And a final dive up the inside into Turn 14, after the long and glorious left at Turn 13.
With the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike nearing its very first race, as a wildcard at Valencia, the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer is starting to preview that first appearance.
They are doing so through a series of videos, which they are sharing on their YouTube channel and via their Social Media channels. The videos include interview fragments with the team behind the bike, as well as footage of the machine.
The video is remarkably revealing. The engine layout is clearly shown, as is the 90° V4 engine, though this was no secret. The video also shows the engine performing a simulation of Mugello, which gives a good idea of what the bike sounds like.
The engine being tested on the dyno sounds remarkably similar to Honda’s V4 RC213V engine, which uses a “screamer” firing interval, each cylinder firing separately.
At the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, at the Austrian round of MotoGP, KTM finally officially presented its MotoGP project, the KTM RC16. There had been months of testing, with press releases and photos issued. There had been KTM’s participation in the private MotoGP test at the Red Bull Ring in July, alongside the rest of the MotoGP teams. But at the Austrian GP, the fans and media got their first chance to see the bike close up. What are we to make of it? First, we should ask what we know about the bike. On their corporate blog, KTM list some specs for the bike. There are few surprises: 1000cc V4 engine, using pneumatic valves, housed in a tubular steel trellis frame and an aluminum swing arm.
Sebastian Risse is the man behind the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike which was presented on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring. An automotive engineer by training, Risse has been with KTM since 2008. He started out as a crew chief and chassis analyst on KTM’s now defunct RC8 Superbike project, but when KTM returned to Grand Prix racing in 2012, Risse took charge of the Moto3 project, which has gone on to be the benchmark in the class. Risse is currently head of all of KTM’s roadracing activities, and has overseen and led development of the RC16 MotoGP bike. After the KTM RC16 was presented, we spoke to Sebastian Risse about the differences and design choices which went into the bike.
The Austrian GP might be tomorrow, but today the news is all about MotoGP’s newest entrant, KTM Racing. The Austrian team used its home to debut officially its MotoGP program, showing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike in its officially Red Bull livery for next year. The livery itself is what you would expect between at KTM/Red Bull collaboration, with the same blue and orange paint scheme as can be found on the Red Bull KTM Moto3 squad. The big difference of course is the rumored fire-breathing, 270hp, V4, engine, which Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will attempt to tame. The bike’s next outing will be at Valencia, where Thomas Lüthi and Mika Kallio will ride with the MotoGP-regulars once again, competing as wild card entries.
The KTM RC16 MotoGP project showed good pace this week in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring and in the hands of test riders Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi. The Austrian factory might have a home-field advantage, but it certainly gained some praise from the MotoGP paddock. And while the KTM RC16 will make its formal public debut during the Austrian GP, with a parade lap and display, it has been confirmed that we’ll see the MotoGP race in anger at the last MotoGP race of the season, the Valencia GP. Mika Kallio confirmed the news to MotoGP.com today, saying that KTM will race as a wild card entry in the Valencia GP, before participating in the post-season testing that follows the final round on the calendar.