Two sunny and efficient days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain helped Red Bull KTM make headway into their schedule of preparation for the 2020 season. Pol Espargaro used a brand new configuration of his factory KTM RC16 to set the 8th fastest time by the end of the second afternoon of work.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Red Bull KTM Tech3 immediately got to grips with their testing programme at Valencia and in the wake of the nineteenth and final round of MotoGP this week. Ideas, components and theories for 2020 and a forthcoming fourth year of Grand Prix racing were evaluated in two days of sunshine and pleasant autumnal conditions.
Pol Espargaro sprung from KTM’s best season yet in the premier class of the FIM World Championship to make progress with the latest version of the RC16 chassis and tested two new packages through the course of more than 100 laps (8th fastest on day two with a small crash). New teammate Brad Binder entered the garage and begun his process of familiarisation with the demands of MotoGP machinery. The South African was 22nd fastest.
Test rider Dani Pedrosa (14th) circulated at a very respectable pace, often less than two seconds from the quickest lap, and worked on an even more advanced incarnation of the KTM race bike. Countryman and Red Bull KTM Tech3 rookie Iker Lecuona (15th) was also eye-catching with his speed and, like Binder, spent most of his track time learning the idiosyncrasies of MotoGP.
Both Red Bull KTM teams will gather together again next week at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain for the second and final test outing of 2019.
Pol Espargaro: “Overall it has been a good two days, a lot of info for the electronics and for the guys in the factory and the chassis technicians so quite positive. Today we focussed again on chassis and tested an evolution. When I crashed on the bike with yesterday’s frame we jumped straight away on the new one and it was very good. I’m super-happy; to have a second chassis like that right away means we know what we are doing, which is so important. We are ‘touching the button’ and improving our weakest spots. We go to Jerez now and let’s see what’s going on there and whether we can stay at the same level as here in Valencia.”
Brad Binder: “It was a cool two days and completely different to what I expected. From lap one it was like another world. The amount of power on the MotoGP bike is unbelievable. It’s incredible to see Pol’s data and some of the things he is doing is insane. I have a lot to learn. It is mainly just the lines and the way you pick up the bike on the exit of the corners. Working with the new team has been amazing. The guys are awesome and there is no pressure, they are super-chilled. They want me to improve in my own time. I had a little crash there at the end but other than that everything was pretty good today. More speed will come with time and when I find more confidence on the bike.”
Iker Lecuona: “Now I have two days more on the bike here in Valencia. Overall, it was very nice with the bike and my feeling got a lot better. I improved my lap time compared to qualifying on Saturday. I know that I still need to continue my work and adapt my riding style a lot more. For the next test in Jerez I want to change some more things regarding lean angle and my body position. On the brakes, I already feel better and also with the electronics but there’s still a lot to do for us.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “We are very happy with the test and the position and work we have done. We needed this time on track and with new stuff without the pressure of lap-times. Our four riders went through their respective schedules in a good way. Pol is already working with next year’s bike – the first prototype that Dani used this summer – and Dani himself continued to work with this version. Iker and Brad used the last spec of 2019 to get used to the bike and there are many things to learn. We can see that the speed is coming but they need to get the hang of the power, the tyres and the electronics. We were lucky with two dry days here and hopefully we can carry on in Jerez. Again I want to thank everyone in the factory for all the effort and strong work to bring us to this point. Let’s keep pushing.”
Sebastian Risse, Technical Director MotoGP: “As with every year it is an exciting time for us as a team and as engineers. We had a lot of new parts here, maybe 30% of what we need to validate before the end of the year and we managed to do it already. We have virtually a new bike, a new package, with different parts to come together. We’ve been working on this with Dani and Pol and there are also options where we have to decide ‘A’ or ‘B’ and see if they work as well as the old one: that’s where we could involve our new riders a little bit but generally we tried to keep them as free as possible to focus on the riding and understanding the bike. Overall it was a really successful test and we are happy with what we have for the new bike. Pol was fast and very consistent. We are still at the point where we have to explore this package, so we have to keep pushing and tuning it. We still have to decide on a lot of parts and we’ll hope to do that in Jerez and the rest in Sepang next year.”