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Subscriber Interview: KTM Team Boss Mike Leitner, Part 1- On Progress, Trellis Frames, And Mika Kallio

The announcement that KTM would be building a bike to compete in MotoGP was met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. The addition of another manufacturer to the grid was a cause for celebration, especially one with such a stellar record in other disciplines. The question was, with MotoGP technology at such an already high level, would KTM be able to competitive quickly enough before the board loses interest? And would KTM's insistence on a steel trellis frame mean it could be competitive, when everyone else had moved on to an aluminium beam frame?

With 14 races in the books, the answer to those questions appears to be yes. Before the race at Aragon, Mika Kallio, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith had already scored a string of top 10 finishes. In the race at the Motorland Aragon circuit, Espargaro finished 10th and Kallio 11th, the Spaniard finishing 14 seconds behind the winner. The bike is making remarkable progress.

On Thursday evening at Aragon, before Sunday's outstanding results, I spoke to KTM MotoGP team manager Mike Leitner, about the progress the team has made. In the first part of this two-part interview, the Austrian team boss talks about the technical choices the team has made, how the project has lived up to expectations, and the role test rider Mika Kallio has played in the factory's success. In the second part, to be published later this week, Leitner talks about the difference between Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, and what the future holds for KTM.

Q: First of all, to me it seems like there’s been much more progress this year than maybe we had any right to expect because it’s taken other factories much longer to get up to speed?

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Subscriber Interview: Gigi Dall'Igna On R&D Transfer From MotoGP To Production

Why do manufacturers go racing? That is a question which has intrigued me for years, and to which I have spent many years trying to get a straight answer. All of my attempts to get factory bosses to quantify exactly what the returns are, and in what areas, have fallen on barren ground.

The simple answer, of course, is that there are three reasons why manufacturers go racing. In no particular order, they are: as a platform for engineering research and development; as a platform for marketing and brand positioning; and as a training ground for engineers. The relative value for each of these remains a mystery, which the factories are either unwilling, or unable to specify.

At the launch of Ducati's Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, presented to the media at the Misano round of MotoGP, I got a chance to ask Gigi Dall'Igna, the boss of Ducati Corse about the value of MotoGP in developing engines for the street. Much was made by Ducati of the Stradale's heritage, as a direct descendant of the Desmosedici GP15 bike. The engine shares a layout with the GP15, as well as the same bore. (The stroke is longer, to give the engine more torque at lower revs, and make it more ridable.)

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Subscriber Blog: If You Were Lin Jarvis, Who Would You Choose?

Imagine you are Lin Jarvis, boss of Yamaha. It is Thursday evening, and you are in the car, driving home from Yamaha Motor Racing's headquarters in Monza. Your phone goes, and you answer it. It's someone from Valentino Rossi's entourage, calling to tell you that Rossi has crashed his enduro bike out training, and has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg. What do you do?

Well, first you call William Favero, Yamaha's communications manager, and sort out the communications process. But after that, and once you get confirmation that Rossi's leg really is broken – a double break, tibia and fibula – then you start to think about whether you will have to field a substitute rider for the upcoming races. Who do you call?

A lot of people have been playing this game since late on Thursday evening, when news of Rossi's injury broke, but very few have been able to put themselves into the position of Lin Jarvis. Instead, the suggestions offered have been made from the perspective of possible future configurations of the Yamaha MotoGP team, or riders who deserve a chance in MotoGP, or just a particular fan's favorite rider, who they would like to see get a ride somewhere. So who are the candidates? Who will get the call? And more importantly, what motivates the decision that Lin Jarvis will eventually have to make?

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Subscriber Only Feature: Gigi Dall'Igna On MegaRide, The Tire Management Project, And Intelligent Riders

The announcement by MegaRide, an Italian vehicle dynamics start up, that they had signed a collaboration agreement with Ducati Corse to supply and develop tire simulation software set the motorcycle racing rumor mill alight. The wording of the press release, combined with a general lack of knowledge among many MotoGP fans and journalists about exactly how the spec Magneti Marelli operates, left many questions about the exact nature of the software, and how Ducati were using it.

Fans and journalists interpreted the collaboration to mean that Ducati were already using the MegaRide software to extract greater performance from the Michelin tires. The fact that Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo would regularly be able to use the softer compounds Michelin brought to races was seen as proof of this.

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