MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
“That’s how crazy KTM people are!”
In our final technical analysis of all six MotoGP factories we look at KTM, the Austrian brand that made excellent progress in its rookie season
When the 2018 MotoGP grid rides out of the Sepang pit lane on Sunday morning there will be no need to speculate which factory has made the biggest forward strides since last year’s first preseason tests.
It’s rookie MotoGP brand KTM, of course, because it’s much easier to move forward when you’re just starting out than when you’re trying to find that last tenth of a second.
During the first four dry races of 2017, KTM’s deficit to the race winner averaged out at over 40 seconds. During the last four dry races, the gap had shrunk to just over 20 seconds. If KTM can repeat that performance this year it will reduce the gap to 10 seconds. Then, if the company signs a MotoGP winner for 2019, it could fight for race victories.
Those are two big ifs, however. Everyone in MotoGP knows that every tenth gained takes twice as much money and effort as the last tenth, so KTM will find that the mountain gets steeper this season and its rate of climb slows.
Or can KTM make a lie of that pitlane truism? The Austrian brand’s engineers certainly made remarkable progress last year, taking several brave leaps forward where most companies would take a few careful steps.
“KTM’s MotoGP library is nil,” said Pol Espargaró’s crew chief Paul Trevathan halfway through last season. “Everything we do is trying to understand more. Luckily we’ve got a group of guys who aren’t scared to learn.” Or scared to take risks.
Last season KTM took two major risks in its development programme, both of which could have gone badly wrong. The factory’s RC16 started its rookie World Championship campaign with a screamer engine, just months after Honda had switched to a more rider-friendly big-bang configuration. Thus KTM were the only people using a 360-degree screamer. Surely that should’ve been a hint?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.