The KTM riders got back to practice in the confines of the Red Bull Ring, in full adherence to health and safety guidelines in the wake of Covid-19 remissions on Wednesday and Thursday this week
The wheels of the KTM RC16 were spun for the first time since the IRTA test at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar at the end of February. Over twenty team members – most of which travelled inside the country but also from neighbouring territories – joined current racer Espargaro and test rider Pedrosa for further set-up work with a view towards a potential first event of the season in the coming months. All had tested negative for COVID-19 before resuming MotoGP activities after a three-month pause. Espargaro’s teammate, Brad Binder, could not take part in the test due to the travel restrictions affecting his current location in South Africa.
KTM are expecting to run another private testing session in the near future and then continue to prepare resources and material for all four MotoGP riders in anticipation of the first round of Grand Prix this summer.
Speaking about testing after such a long gap, Pol Espargaro said, “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.”
At the end of the testing session, Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager said, “I’m really happy we could organise these two days here in Spielberg and get the MotoGP team back on track. It was a big effort to get it done but we tested everybody, made it happen and I think it was key for the mentality of the company, the team, everyone in the racing department and especially the riders. In general, we have been lucky with the weather. It was good for Pol to get back to race speed: after such a long time off the bike riders really need laps. For Dani also it was important to restart the test programme. Thanks go to the team for making this happen and to Spielberg for letting us test here. We now hope to have more news on the calendar in the middle of June and we are really looking forward to go racing again.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director, added, “Seeing the bikes on the racetrack, where they belong, was great for all of us. It was a pleasure to see the happy faces of the riders and crew, but then it was back to work and back to normal. We tried to make the most of the time at the Red Bull Ring. With Pol we were able to check his 2020 bike on a new track and with Dani we ran a very extensive test program. But the most important thing was also the significance: we are making great strides. There is definitely an interesting Grand Prix calendar ahead of us and it is time to prepare our team for it. In the past weeks and months we had been very radical with our response to the virus situation through the closure of our motorsport department, but I promised the team that we would be the first to go out again. We were finally able to keep that promise here at the Red Bull Ring.”