KTM close MotoGP pre-season prep with optimism after three-day Qatar test

Courtesy of KTM Racing

The lights are excitingly hovering on red for KTM’s fourth MotoGP in the immediate wake of the the second and final pre-season test at the Losail International Circuit. Brad Binder was the fastest KTM RC16 rider after three days at the venue that will now open the 2020 campaign in two weeks on March 8th.

For the second day in a row (and of three) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders Brad Binder and Pol Espargaro clocked more than 110 laps of the 5.4km layout as afternoon turned to dusk and the crew completed their set-up work towards the first Grand Prix of twenty to come.

Rookie Binder (9th) was the surprise act after more modifications to his works KTM RC16 allowed the determined South African to register an effort that would stand less than half a second from the quickest lap of the day and be three tenths better than Pol Espargaro (14). The Spaniard, who worked diligently towards his race configuration across the three days but suffered a small crash on Monday afternoon and was ultimately denied a strong time-attack, was still just 0.7 of a second from the #1 spot.

Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira (19th) and Iker Lecuona (20th) also dropped their lap-times to nudge closer to the top half of the leaderboard; less than 1.5 seconds covered the top twenty riders.

KTM continue their MotoGP adventure with the Grand Prix of Qatar in a fortnight’s time.

Pol Espargaro: “A good day but not such a great ending. We worked well and got some good info with a lot of things but then got a bit lost and it affected us going for a time attack. We made a couple of mistakes and had some issues and then I lost the front on Turn 2 which meant we could not have the happy end we wanted. Overall it has been a great test though and I feel very ready for the race weekend and that’s the most important thing. Brad did very well with a good lap at the right time and that shows we can be there.”

Brad Binder: “I was quite surprised to be honest. I felt comfortable and we made some changes today that helped me a lot and sorted many of my issues. I put in a new set of tyres and ‘bam!’ the lap-time came. The bike was good. I felt way more comfortable to get it stopped, turned quicker and also get on the throttle earlier. Once we figured that part out then it was a lot easier to put a fast lap together but it was still quite difficult to do 22 of them, so I have a long way to go! We made some good steps these three days and the team has been awesome. I’m looking forward to continuing at the GP.”

Miguel Oliveira: “For sure, the last day was much better than the first two days, at least the lap time progression was there. We couldn’t really use the soft tyre to make a lap time and we mainly focused on the medium tyre to find a race pace, which is right now much better than half of the riders in front of us. This is quite scary, but also positive in a way. Of course, we need to start the race a bit further in front. We have some ideas to work on the race weekend. Testing is always a bit tricky because many riders do a quick lap time and they don’t really have a pace, so in real conditions, you can really see, who is faster and who is not. So, I hope in less than two weeks’ time, we can figure out a way, that we can extract a good lap time.”

Iker Lecuona: “Overall, I felt good today, apart from a minor crash we had this morning. When I came back to the track in the afternoon, the wind had picked up quite a lot, which is a completely new situation for me. We also tried the new Michelin tyre, which I still need to understand further. When I see the three complete days of test here then I can say that I’m satisfied, although there are still things to improve.”

Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “We still had a lot on the list after Sepang and we managed to get through it here, so the team and the riders did a great job. The focus was to work hard on the bikes to find the final configuration for the race weekend. Generally, we are happy and it is important that all four riders are fit for the start of the season. I think there is clear proof that we made a step with the bike from 2019 to 2020. The lap-time from Brad was very impressive by a rookie but we have been looking at the longer outings and he did well there also. Pol didn’t go for a super-fast time today but we are not worried about his performance at all. The Tech3 guys made some good steps and, as we have seen in the past, lap-times are not always the priorities at winter tests.”

Sebastian Risse, Technical Coordinator MotoGP: “From a technical point of view we are ready. We managed to do most of the large items on our test schedule in Sepang and we know Losail is quite special in terms of the conditions and the way it changes with day sessions and night races and so on. So, we focussed on race distance and knowing the tyres specs better and for this place in particular: this all worked out quite well. You have to look behind the list of times when you are here. I think we are quite well-prepared but we did struggle a bit with Pol today to make the ultimate lap-time; however we know what we have to look for and what we need to do so we are confident.”

Losail IRTA Test Day Three final times

1. Maverick Viñales (ESP), Yamaha 1:53.858
2. Franco Morbidelli (ITA), Yamaha +0.033
3. Alex Rins (ESP), Suzuki +0.210
4. Fabio Quartararo (FRA), Yamaha +0.219
5. Jack Miller (AUS), Ducati +0.247
9. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM +0.425
14. Pol Espargaro (ESP), Red Bull KTM +0.765
19. Miguel Oliveira (POR) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +1.150
20. Iker Lecuona (ESP), Red Bull KTM Tech3 +1.443

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