Last year, Suzuki won its first MotoGP race in almost a decade. This win came in the manufacturer’s second year after returning to the MotoGP grid, and as anyone can tell you, it was a long road. The GSX-RR had been in development since 2012, and the bike’s introduction into MotoGP had been delayed one year. What does this mean? It means that it’s hard to build a race winning bike—it’s hard just to build a bike that will score points in MotoGP. So, how has KTM managed to score points with its fresh new bike, the RC16?
Did KTM Just Become the Dark Horse of MotoGP?
Development on the RC16 started in 2015, and two years later, KTM’s new prototype finally debuted for its first race at Qatar. Nobody was expecting too much, not from the bike’s first race, yet somehow Pol Espargaro managed to pilot the bike into 16th place. That’s one position outside of championship points. Critics were impressed, but they credited the KTM’s performance to the five crashes of other potential points contenders. This evaluation didn’t hold much water when the Argentine round came about.
Espargaro finished 14th with teammate Bradley Smith finishing right behind him at Termas de Río Hondo. This time the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders had not only dodged several crashing bikes, but they had also survived several technical snafus. Since then, the KTM bikes have gone on to score points at two other rounds, leaving motorcycle journalists scratching their heads.
According to Bradley Smith, even the KTM bosses weren’t expecting this incredible performance. Smith credits the KTM RC16’s engine for being very reliable, while Pol Espargaro has suffered a few gremlins while riding the bike. However, Espargaro has faith in the RC16, and has even managed to race the KTM to a 12th place finish—the highest finish the bike has had so far.
Will KTM’s steep learning curve continue to rise? Will the small Austrian factory be able to hold its program together in spite of the costs of racing? The motorcycling attorneys of the Metier Law Firm can’t wait to find out.