The covers have come off the bulls: the 2017 KTM RC16 has been revealed in its full glory in Austria, as Red Bull KTM Factory racing unveiled their MotoGP™ World Championship projects for the coming season. After debuting in the 2016 Valencian GP with Mika Kallio as a wildcard, the team are now fresh from the first tests of 2017 at Sepang and Phillip Island as they prepare to line up full time on the MotoGP™ grid.
Riders in the premier class Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith were on hand to present their machines, with the new Moto2™ and Moto3™ projects also revealed during the launch. Espargaro was first to talk, before Smith gave his thoughts on the upcoming season – with Team Manager of the MotoGP™ project, Mike Leitner, later taking over the mic.
“Right now the bull is a little bit wild, but it feels really good. KTM is really new to MotoGP compared to other brands and we’re making huge steps. Every time we jump on the bike we get closer and it’s beautiful to see the evolution. I want to thank KTM for trusting me, and for this project.”
“There’s a lot of pressure. It’s something that you’ve always wished for and worked for throughout your career but when you finally get that opportunity there’s the pressure that comes with it. But I embrace the opportunity that I have and both me and Pol – and the team – will be working extremely hard. We’ve been busy so far already in the winter tests and the work won’t stop. It’s just the beginning and I’m excited to see what 2017 brings.”
“First of all I want to see I’m super happy. The whole company has been working like crazy in the past year to get to this moment with the project. After the Valencia race we had some issues and the designers have all worked very hard. I think we went in the right direction. The most important thing is that we keep these guys motivated and can deliver what they feel in the laptime and what they need on track. That’s what everyone here is working for.”
All classes of attack for the Austrian factory were presented – including Moto2™ and Moto3™. In Moto2™, Red Bull KTM Ajo are headed by reigning Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder and 2015 Moto3™ runner up Miguel Oliveira, with a new KTM chassis in the class proving a new challenge for the riders and for Team Manager Aki Ajo.
“I’m very happy to be part of the project and after working with KTM in 2015 it’s nice to come back and embrace a new challenge. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been really positive and so far so good. We still have a lot of things to improve but for sure we will.”
“Stepping up from Moto3 to Moto2 will always be tough but I haven’t set a goal to be honest, I just want to get on the bike and improve every time I do. Just keep working as hard as possible and see where we end up.”
Moto3™ has a line up change for Red Bull KTM Ajo, as Brad Binder graduates to Moto2™. Bo Bendsneyder remains with the squad after his first podium finish as a rookie, but lightweight class race winner Niccolo Antonelli joins the squad on the other side of the garage.
“First of all we are all so proud to be part of this project. It’s difficult after good seasons because expectation is really high but we need to keep our feet on the ground. Every season is different, especially with this new project in Moto2™ – it’s like starting from zero and we can’t expect to win straight away but that’s our aim. And in Moto3™ we’ve fought for the title and this year we’ll try and do the same. Our targets are high.”