KTM IS preparing an updated MotoGP engine for riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith to test this weekend in Qatar, with the former stating this could represent a “big, big step” in going some way to taming the “wild” RC16.
Both men have identified the bike's motor, which features a 'screamer' configuration, as an area in need of improvement, as they have consistently encountered issues transferring the RC16's considerable power to the rear tyre.
“The engine is too aggressive still,” said Espargaro at the close of the second day of testing in Australia.
“We have some news from KTM that they are going to bring something good to test in Qatar that can make a big, big step for us. I'm happy.
“It's something about the engine [because] the management of the power, the power delivery to the rear wheel is now quite aggressive. We need to calm a little bit the bike. At the moment it's like a wild horse and we need to help it.”
When quizzed on the specifics of the engine that both men will be using in Qatar, KTM race boss Mike Leitner gave little away on the specifics of the motor both riders will use this weekend.
“That point [the overly aggressive engine] we really proved here," he told Crash.net at Phillip Island. "I mean, on day one, when we more or less came with this base that we had from Sepang.
“Here we found a little way that made the bike less demanding but, of course, with the engine, and the power delivery, we have some ideas. I don't know what we can achieve for round one, but of course we have some ideas and we are doing things.
“We will bring this year 100 percent some engine updates, because it's necessary. But also on the chassis side, the suspension, everywhere. We are now on the point. From here, it's only one way to go.”
At this late stage of the preseason, any engine update is unlikely to feature a radically different design, said Leitner, considering the Austrian factory's riders are limited to just nine motors through the year.
“[A radical engine change] Is not possible because with nine engines you cannot radically change things. But of course we have to test them at home [to see] which one we'll test this year.
“We try to really work hard on that side. Then we have the feeling, and when we have something that works well, we will bring for the GP.”
Keeping the engine in mind, Espargaro and Smith's performances at Phillip Island become all the more impressive. Both posted times that were less than 1.5s off the best lap of the week.
However, it was not just the outright speed that pleased Leitner. An early run on day three at Phillip Island, confirmed that Espargaro was able to lap consistently, at a high speed.
“We are quite happy because it's not so easy to come with a bike that has never been on this track. It's a completely different character to many different European tracks that we tested at last year.
“Somehow it worked quite smoothly to find a setting and go quite early in a testing programme. Now we're doing big test steps on the track like on a track we knew already.
“The thing is clear. Here you come and it would be easy to be 2.5s behind. But the fact is we can somehow already get some lap times, but also we did a run this morning [day three] and he was always in the low 1m 30s.”
“Like I say, it could be much worse. We have to take the positive things and just keep going. Development doesn't mean that you always go forward. We have to stay calm and think with a clear head. That's how we want to go racing.”
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