KTM continued its pattern of making steps forward for the second weekend at back-to-back MotoGP races by jumping from a best of eleventh at Aragon 1 to fourth place at Aragon 2.
The first race weekend had been the Austrian factory’s worst of the year and it responded by giving each of its four riders – Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder at the Factory team, plus Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona at Tech3 – different ideas to try for the second round.
“Because we have so many things to try, we have to split the work between the four factory bikes, together with Tech3,” Espargaro said on the Thursday. “We are going to take different ‘lines’, which we think could all help, and we will see who is fastest.”
The tactic eventually paid off, Espargaro charging from ninth to fourth in the race after switching to a set-up used by rookie Lecuona.
“Last weekend we were trying to figure out what was going on and were just doing some small changes on our ‘normal’ bike. But this weekend we turned it around and we were trying to use different set-ups, far away from our [normal] bike,” Espargaro said.
“Trying a longer swingarm, closer front, opening the front, very short swingarm… Going much further than we are used to doing at the other racetracks where we were just changing small things.”
But still struggling after Friday, it all came together for Espargaro courtesy of Lecuona’s settings.
“Tech3 were helping us, especially Lecuona,” Espargaro added. “Iker was working very good this weekend and we were using by the end his set-up. So this really matters for us.
“I think it’s one of the first times that we get a super help from the outside, because we were really struggling Friday and then Iker’s set-up really helped us. Then all the bikes became better, then the front tyre becomes better. All the package was working well.”
Lecuona confirmed: “Last week it was difficult for us, each KTM worked in [their own] direction, but this weekend the four KTMs worked together.
“We have all gone through various paths and in the end we were looking a little at the settings of the best KTM to continue advancing in that direction, this has made us there ahead.
“It is the first time that KTM works like this.”
The most important thing for Espargaro had been to find a set-up that allowed him to use the medium front tyre after struggling with the soft in Aragon race one, but they were also able to make the RC16 turn better, helping the rear.
“The race pace was nice, even if the rear was still not amazing on the edge I could really brake hard with the medium tyre, I could change direction with confidence and I could gain where the bike is good,” Espargaro said.
“Normally we gain our time on the brakes, normally with some angle and with the front soft tyre last weekend it was a disaster and I was going wide,”
“Also this weekend we could make a setting of the bike to turn a little bit better, which also helps the rear tyre. We were just trying to help the rear to turn faster and gain on acceleration by drive grip, not by spinning on the edge.
“I could overtake, I really enjoyed this race and at the end when I enjoy the race and the bike is good the result comes.
“This fourth position feels very good after the disaster of the last weekend. I think it’s a well-deserved position because we have worked very hard, especially Friday, and suffering a lot.”
The end result was that – after having no KTMs in the top ten a week earlier – Espargaro, Miguel Oliveira and Lecuona were all inside the top nine on Sunday (Binder having crashed on the opening lap).
Espargaro now heads for his final three races as a factory KTM rider holding eighth in the world championship, although his main aim is a victory before he leaves for Honda.
“Valencia looks like it’ll fit quite good with our bike and also normally the asphalt there is super grippy. It’s very similar to Misano I would say, about grip and traction, so it’s a place where I think we can do good.
“But still we need to see the weather conditions because it looks like it’s very cold. So let’s see if especially the front we can use the medium tyre, for the race that will be super helpful.”