Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM is making its maiden voyage into the premier class MotoGP racing world this season. KTM lead driver Bradley Smith said he is expecting a rough season.
Smith, along with his partner Pol Espargaro, started testing the KTM RC16 bike since November 2016. Despite the efforts of the pair, they remain at the bottom part of the grid on several occasions.
During the first session of the 2017 MotoGP season, Espargaro was in the 21st place and Smith is in 23rd place. Both drivers posted lap times of more than three seconds behind the pace set by Yamaha driver Maverick Vinales.
Oliveira and Binder continue setting up KTM bikes in Losail
— Red Bull KTM Ajo (@RedBull_KTM_Ajo)
In a statement acquired by , Smith said, "In general, kind of what we expected, we're bringing up the back, but in the similar position to what we were here in the test, even after three days, we're the same after 45 minutes."
In terms of specs, the bikes Smith and Espargaro are still the same as the ones used during KTM's testing sessions. Nevertheless, the team is expected to have made adjustments to the bikes prior to the start of the season in order to make amends and improve their performance.
Many motoring analysts said that KTM entered the premier MotoGP class in a rather positive notion. MotoGP organizers introduced new control tires and electronics last year. This means that KTM rivals are still rather new to these recent changes, according to . However, some also argued that these changes are minor and may not significantly affect KTM's performance on the track.
KTM's entry into the premier MotoGP roster means that there are now six manufacturers vying for the top title. The 2017 MotoGP World Championship season will commence on March 27 in Qatar. The next leg will be on April 10 in Argentina.