KTM enters new era in international Road Racing
The Red Bull KTM Factory team in 250 will see real competition from Julien Simon from Repsol KTM, while there are an impressive line-up of 125cc riders onboard the KTMs.
Factory team and more in 250cc
Two riders who proved in 2007 that they are both significant forces in 250cc will continue to carry the banner for the Red Bull KTM 250cc factory team – Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan and Mika Kallio of Finland but they will have to watch out for Simon who has been impressive in tests. The Spaniard is also no stranger to KTM machines, having ridden for the 125 factory team in 2005 and 2006. As a proven talent he is expected to be up with the front runners.
Right up front in pre-season testing
Pre-season testing has gone well for the KTM 250cc riders with Kallio up with the leaders at both Jerez and Valencia 2:00.595 for sixth position on the third day but the teams faced new challenges during testing in Qatar just a week before the opening GP.
Kallio comfortable with floodlighting
Mika said it had been no problem riding at night and he didn’t see much difference in tackling the track in daylight. “We had established a good base set-up with our new chassis at the previous test sessions in Valencia and Jerez, but it was obvious that we had to start all over again here in Qatar. The Losail track is faster, with higher corner speeds, but at the same time, the overall grip level is lower, partly because of the sand that blows over the circuit from the desert, and partly because the track surface temperature is lower at night,” the Finn said after the tests in Qatar. “At first the feeling for the bike was a whole lot different. We made a lot of changes to the suspension setup and the chassis geometry. Making the bike shorter overall helped a lot - I got a good feeling for the front end of the bike and managed to put in a good lap on a used tyre so we could keep a good selection for the race weekend.”
Aoyama comfortable on Losail
Hiroshi Aoyama was fifth on the final night of tests with 2:01,099 and said it took him a while to get used to the night time ride. “In the beginning, it was a strange to ride in the dark But I finally got used to it – it feels little bit like riding on a highway! At first we were also worried about the lower track temperatures but this turned out to be no problem and we’ve already found the right tyre choice for the race and found a good set-up. There is still a lot of work ahead of us though – on the race weekend, I want to go faster so we need to further improve the setup.”
Simon from Repsol KTM 250 also solid
Julian Simon onboard his Repsol KTM is expected to challenge all the front runners this season. He said it took him a while to get used to the floodlighting and the shadows on the night circuit but he eventually got used to it. “The only problem I can see for the race is that qualifying is very late after midnight. The track temperatures will be cool and in fact the start of the race will actually be three hours earlier at 9.15 p.m.” Simon had a tumble on the fast left hand corner but brushed it aside, saying that he had a good feeling for the bike.
Title hopes in 250cc
Steely-eyed Kallio likes to preserve his cool Finnish persona, just as team-mate Hiroshi immerses himself in the technology and leaves his emotions at home. But both of these highly professional riders go into the 2008 season with thoroughly reasonable title- and podium expectations. When asked at Valencia for his pre-season prediction Kallio replied: “We are going for the title. We just haven’t decided yet which one of us will get it.” For sure, one of their most competitive opponents will come from within the KTM ranks in the form of Julian Simon.
Many more KTMs on 125cc grid for 2008
This season KTM underlines its commitment to promote new talent, a policy that seems to be working well with Pablo Nieto of Spain and Raffaele de Rosa of Italy from the Onde 200 KTM team looking strong in all the tests. Japanese rider Tomoyoshi Koyama is also a title contender and moves to the ISPA KTM Aran team together with Italian rider Lorenzo Zanetti. The two 125cc riders for Repsol KTM – Spaniards Esteve Rabat and Marc Marquez have both had some injury problems in the test sessions. Rabat is back on board while Marquez is still recuperating. Swiss rider Randy Krummenacher continues to ride for Red Bull KTM but has struggled to find his rhythm in tests.
Bartol satisfied with pre-season preparation
KTM’s Technical Director Harald Barton said he was confident that the team had made goo progress with the re-season preparations. “The most important mission was to make improvements in chassis stability and handling and we’ve managed to accomplish that,” he said. “We’re also happy with our satellite teams in the 125cc category. Some of our riders are surprisingly fast after just having a short time to get familiar with our bike. We’re still working on the overall package with chassis and suspension settings, but I’m sure we can tie up all the loose ends very soon.”