After thirteen and a half weeks of silence, MotoGP bikes are to roar into life once again in their natural habitat. The KTM RC16 machines are to spend two days testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, on May 27th and 28th. The last time MotoGP bikes were on track was at Qatar, on February 24th.
Factory rider Pol Espargaro will be joined at the Red Bull Ring by test rider Dani Pedrosa, where they will continue work on the RC16. Although development work on the bike stopped for over a month between mid-March and the middle of April, due to restrictions put in place in Austria to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, KTM are keen to continue testing the 2020 engine and the new chassis which made its debut in November last year at the Valencia and Jerez tests.
KTM had wanted to keep the test secret, according to German-language website Speedweek. The track had been booked by KTM ostensiby for a test of its X-Bow ultralight sports car, but this was subterfuge. It only emerged that the test was for KTM's MotoGP team when the Austrian factory was forced to report the test to race director Mike Webb.
Brad Binder is absent for the test. The South African is unable to leave his home country, as the South African government has currently banned all flights into and out of the country. Attempts to arrange travel out of South Africa for Binder have been unsuccessful. South Africa's pandemic policy has introduced multiple levels of restrictions, and although restrictions were recently eased back from level five to level four, flights will only resume once the government sees the curve of new cases flatten sufficiently for it to feel safe enough to move to level three.
KTM is the first factory to resume testing, but it is not yet clear when other factories will be able to follow suit. As a factory with concessions, KTM (and Aprilia) are able to test at any track. The other four MotoGP factories can only test at designated circuits.
Although getting two days on a Grand Prix circuit will help, Pol Espargaro will not be the only rider going into the first race at Jerez with a test under his belt. The entire field is due to have two sessions on track at Jerez on Wednesday July 15th, two days before the first of two races at the circuit. That relies on Dorna's plans to hold the race being approved by the Spanish government, but with La Liga, the Spanish soccer league, due to resume in two weeks' time, the prospects are looking very good.