Smiles all round as MotoGP, WorldSBK riders return to track

KTM becomes the first team to fire up its MotoGP machine since the 2020 season was put on hold with Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa testing in Austria

Dani Pedrosa - KTM Factory [1200]

MotoGP has taken its first proper steps towards getting the 2020 season back on track as KTM became the first team to fire its bikes back up with a test at the Red Bull Ring with Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa.

No MotoGP track action has taken place since the 22 riders departed Qatar for the last of the pre-season tests in February with the coronavirus pandemic calling a sudden halt to proceedings on the eve of the opening round.

However, with Dorna seemingly now just days away from confirming the season will get back underway on July 19 with a race at Jerez, riders are getting back into some ‘match fitness’ with a series of private tests across Europe to dust off the rust.

While this means getting out on track aboard stock machinery for some, for the KTM Factory Racing MotoGP team it’s a chance to fire up the RC16 once again as they aren’t constrained by the same testing restrictions as their more established rivals.

As such, KTM took the opportunity to get back on track at its home Austrian circuit with race rider Espargaro joined by development rider Pedrosa in place of Brad Binder, who is still in South Africa.

Though he admits the first few laps on the bike were difficult, Espargaro says he is simply delighted to be getting some proper MotoGP miles under his belt again after three months.

“I don’t think I have ever been so long without a bike – especially one for competition – so it was a little bit difficult in the first few runs yesterday but I was quickly up to the kind of rhythm I was setting in Qatar. It was great to get back in action and I think we all felt that: there were a lot of smiling faces in the box. Technically we made some improvements. 

“The first priority was to get our feeling back with the bike but we also brought quite a lot to test and this was interesting. The good weather meant we could play with a lot on the bike and we improved mostly with the chassis but also some electronics. I’m really happy. Now just to look forward to the first race.”

Though Espargaro has the benefit of riding a full-fat MotoGP machine, his rivals have at least been able to get out elsewhere with both Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins lapping the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on stock Aprilia and Suzuki bikes respectively, while Valentino Rossi has been lapping at Misano.

Meanwhile, in WorldSBK Michael van der Mark hit the track on his Yamaha R1 at Assen, while the Barni Ducati team has been on track in Italy with Randy Krummenacher.