The KTM Factory Racing Team on Sunday had the opportunity to experience their first full-blown MotoGP race with a wildcard entry for the brand new KTM RC16 MotoGP bike at the last round of the 2016 season in Valencia. And while the outcome of the race was not as successful as they would have liked, the team came away with enough reason to be encouraged.
The wildcard entry with regular test rider Mika Kallio (FIN) was always considered as another development test. The team struggled with grip problems during the Friday free practices but they had reason to be very encouraged with improved lap times during Saturday’s qualifying. On race day, while Kallio was satisfied with his start and the opening laps, a very small technical problem intervened and caused him to eventually withdraw and return to the pits.
Mika Kallio (Test Rider MotoGP): “Basically the start was more or less okay then I tried to choose a good line in the opening few corners and I think I gained a few positions. I was where I expected to be and I was fighting with the other guys in my group. I managed to stay on course in the first laps and this was positive, and I could also see the difference between my bike and the others – where we are okay and where we need to improve. After six laps I felt something happened on the bike going into the corner. I opened the throttle, the power went down and there was no acceleration. It seems there was a sensor problem and this affected the electronics and the controls. The rear tire started to spin and the grip went down fast, so riding became more complicated and the other riders started to pull away. It was a shame because it would have been good to see what we could have done. Anyway up to the point we had the problems the feeling was good. I’m just disappointed we didn’t finish the race.”
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director): “Despite the outcome, in principle I’m still satisfied because we understood the task, and nothing happened that we had not reckoned with. But what was extremely good to see was how the team reacted, because on Friday we simply didn’t have the speed that we had in the last test three weeks ago. They reacted overnight and prepared the bike so that Mika had a good feeling, times improved and we had the basis for the race today. In the race, the distance from the front was more or less okay. By that I mean we had no reason to be pleased but also none to be unhappy. Realistically speaking we are where we should be. I was happy with the way the team worked together. KTM is a family and no-one in the team is unhappy because we understand how difficult it is to be part of this elite class.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “I’m really satisfied although it is clear it is not the outcome we wanted. But that doesn’t have anything to do with how well the team worked. Everybody made a real effort but when we are racing there was an occasional weak point and this was very clear, because it was the first time we had experienced a race weekend. Our wildcard entry was simply an important test for the next season. Mika was able to stick with the riders in his group in the first laps, and he did so right up to when the problem emerged. What is annoying is that we did the full race distance in tests. It was really a very small fault in a part that hardly costs anything, but it is a strong signal to everyone on the team that every single piece on a MotoGP bike must work perfectly.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “As far as the reliability of the bike is concerned, except for the race, everything was without problems. But what counts was the painful learning curve of today. In principle we were satisfied with the performance here, and with t