Two more days of essential set-up work and data gathering for the 2019 FIM MotoGP season took place at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain yesterday and today. The final test of 2018 saw Red Bull KTM flanked by the new Red Bull Tech 3 KTM RC16s of Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin once more.
In contrast to the autumnal conditions and rain that affected the final round of 2018 MotoGP and stretched into the first testing days of 2019 work, the second MotoGP IRTA session at the Circuito de Jerez was blessed with sunshine and an important opportunity to progress with tasks for next year.
Pol Espargaro ploughed through two days of trial and experimentation with new engine internals, chassis modifications and yet more feedback with a fresh electronics package. Despite the list of changes and components the Spaniard looked for key upgrades to the 2019 KTM RC16 package before the testing MotoGP ‘blackout’ comes into force through December and January.
Johann Zarco clocked just his third and fourth days on the new #5 race bike. The French star was satisfied with a discovery for his base set-up on Wednesday that allowed more comfort and speed with corner entry. On Thursday he established a comfortable and consistent pace and on finalising a direction for his RC16 with a view towards the next tests early in 2019.
Jerez was another crucial opportunity for the Tech 3 squad to adapt to the KTM machinery, and for Hafizh Syahrin to delve deeper into his first full MotoGP off-season of work while Miguel Oliveira continued his adaption to the KTM RC16 in what will be a measured term as a rookie in the premier class.
Pol Espargaro: “It has been a busy, busy test and we tried the bike from bottom to top. Yesterday we mainly did longer runs with a used tyre and our pace is not bad but we struggled a bit today in making a single fast lap. I had a big list of things to try and it is difficult to make fast lap-times and be consistent with pace when the bike is changing so much and is ‘live’! We were trying different parameters in the engine and something for turning when the tyre drops. In the chassis we made some modifications, which I think will be an improvement for the future, and the swing arm also. The WP guys have been working quite a lot with suspension and they also have some ideas. The team will work for Malaysia and we’ll have some meetings now to see in what areas Johann wants to go as well so we can improve this bike together.”
Johann Zarco: “So, some more days with the KTM and I’m happy because I made a step that I was looking for. It gave confirmation for the technicians for which direction we have to go. We began today on a better level and I was improving my lap-time. We then moved to test different things and could not do so many laps. We are still working on my base setting. We are not working to be the fastest one out there but the base is coming better and better every time I go out, and I can see that because the lap-time is there and I can repeat it relaxed. It means this is the direction we need. This engine is giving a good feeling to go out of the corner. Even if you miss it the bike will go and this is still one of our strong points and when we go faster we will be able to use it even better.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “To be honest, we expected to improve our lap time a bit more, but we still need more rear grip to find decent traction. At the moment, I feel very good with the front tyre, which is really stable, but at the same time the rear is spinning. We tried many things, but didn’t find the ideal solution yet. Now we need to think about it to find something for the next test. Overall, the two days of testing were very positive, but we are a bit far from the top. Anyway, we work hard and try to improve step by step in 2019.”
Miguel Oliveira: “On the last day of testing this year I was able to make a very big step compared to yesterday regarding the lap time, more than a second, so I’m happy for that. Again we understood more about the bike, about what is missing and I’m just glad that the team and me are going home with a clear idea of what we need to do.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “We came to Jerez to make a lot of base setting work so we started with the 2018 bike and brought many new items. We ‘loaded’ Pol a lot and he did a great job. We tried many aspects on the engine, chassis, aerodynamics and suspension. We have some good information now and will have to go home, work and bring the best mix to the next test in Sepang. Johann made a big step with his understanding of the bike and went into the ’39 lap-times with used tyres and that was positive. Also his feeling on the bike was getting better but for sure we still have a lot of work to do with him also. We’ll work during the winter now to be ready for Malaysia.”
Red Bull KTM cooled the engines on their second full MotoGP year as the sun set at Jerez today. 2018 has been a challenging but satisfying second campaign of further education at the highest level and witnessed significant reduction in the margin to the long-established leaders of the Grand Prix grid. 2019 gathers serious pace with the first pre-season test at Sepang, Malaysia on February 6th.
Jerez IRTA Test
Results MotoGP IRTA Test Jerez 2018 Day 1
1. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Ducati 1:37.968
2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA), Ducati +0.217
3. Takaai Nakagami (JPN), Honda +0.380
4. Maverick Viñales (SPA), Yamaha +0.408
5. Marc Marquez (SPA), Honda +0.549
15. Pol Espargaro (SPA), KTM +1.273
19. Johann Zarco (FRA), KTM +2.224
21. Hafizh Syahrin (MAL), KTM +2.662
23. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM +3.731
Results MotoGP IRTA Test Jerez 2018 Day 2
1. Takaai Nakagami (JPN), Honda 1:37.945
2. Marc Marquez (SPA), Honda +0.025
3. Maverick Viñales (SPA), Yamaha +0.121
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA), Honda +0.160
5. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Ducati +0.164
15. Pol Espargaro (SPA), KTM +1.199
19. Johann Zarco (FRA), KTM +1.919
23. Hafizh Syahrin (MAL), KTM +2.575
24. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM +2.632