“Our bike is fast and competitive”
KTM 250 riders wrapped up the official preseason testing session in Jerez on Thursday on a high note with Repsol-KTM rider Julian Simon in fifth, and the official factory riders Mika Kallio and Hiroshi Aoyama in a very close sixth and
All three riders were consistently among the top performers in the three days of testing on the Spanish circuit and all agreed they could have gone even faster. Regrettably the final decisive run for good lap times was cut short when the last session was red-flagged after a crash ten minutes from the end.
KTM's Technical Director Harald Barton expressed satisfaction after the tests.
"Our good results at this and our previous test in Valencia confirm the progress we've made in the development of our bike. We addressed the reliability problems of the past, and the engines are working so well now that we have a healthy base from which we can fine-tune the bike and be competitive at every race. Another significant step was the new chassis that we introduced back in November, and which seems to give the riders the feel and the handling they wanted. The fact that all three of our riders are within the top group speaks for itself and boosts the confidence of us all", he said.
Red Bull factory rider Mika Kallio was very positive.
"I feel good and relaxed. We won the final race of last year's season and I've been fastest or up with the top group in all the pre-season tests, like here in Jerez. Our bike is fast and competitive, even more so than last year where we've had difficulties to find enough rear grip and the right handling on some of the tracks.
Kallio said there had been major improvements with the new generation of chassis that has been in use since last November and confirmed that the efficiency of the bike has greatly improved. "On tracks like Valencia and Jerez, which are not so fast, we look really good in comparison to our competitors, and it will be interesting to see what will happen on a fast track like Qatar with the first race of the season in two week's time. Luckily we all have the chance to test there one week prior to the race, which will be especially important for us. My goal for the season is clear - we are out to win races, and I am sure that we have a good chance to win the championship!"
Kallio's factory team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama was also upbeat.
"We are still testing lots of settings. The new chassis gives me a different feeling for the bike, and even small adjustments have a big effect on the way it works. The new bike is better on hard braking, it's also easier to keep tight cornering lines and to find traction on the corner exits, but we are still trying and evaluating many things."
Wet weather hampered the tests, Aoyama said and looking forward to the season he said there were at least 10 riders who would be fast and tough to beat. "One of them is my team-mate Mika - he has been lightning-fast in pre-season testing so far, and will be one of the top contenders for sure!"
Julian Simon onboard a KTM 250 for Repsol KTM is also looking forward to a competitive season.
"The weather conditions here in Jerez were really tricky on the opening two days, but we finally managed to confirm the base set-up that we've established in Valencia a few weeks ago. With three tests under my belt, I am now really getting used to the bike, and my confidence for the first race of the year in Qatar is building up. I am very happy with the support of KTM and the work of my team - a big thank you to all of them!"