sábado, 12 de junio de 2021


 Text and Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza 

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The recent MotoGP Grand Prix of Catalunya conquered on June 6, 2021 by KTM´s pilot Miguel Oliveira has been highly revealing regarding the outstanding progress of the Austrian company within the queen category of world motorcycling, because of some important reasons : 

a) It confirms the great level of the Portuguese rider, who has had to fight tooth and nail during the whole race with Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), four exceedingly fast men, who have tried to catch up with him all along, but haven´t been able, due to the extraordinary performance of Miguel Oliveira, who has set a tremendous pace from the beginning, battling fiercely and hanging on to each meter of track with great courage, as well as developing an exceptional riding and exhibiting a remarkable physical condition.

And this is already the third MotoGP race won by the great Portuguese pilot. 

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b) It is a pretty praiseworthy victory also verifying the impressive technological and mechanical evolution of the four-stroke V4 1000 cc and 265 hp KTM RC16 MotoGP bike (in whose development a number of very wise decisions were taken by the Austrian firm), along with the masterful hand of Mike Leitner, KTM´s MotoGP Race Manager since January 2015 and who was chief mechanic of Dani Pedrosa until that year. 

In only four years since its arrival at MotoGP in the last race of 2016 season, the Austrian company hasn´t stopped improving, slowly but in a steady way, carrying out things really well, doing piecework and with great motivation. 

A toiling dynamics focused towards success, which started jelling with the first podium attained by KTM in the MotoGP World Championship at the Grand Prix of Valencia 2018, in which Pol Espargaró (KTM) nailed a third position, behind Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Álex Rins (Suzuki). 

Shortly after, following twenty years of association between the Monster Tech3 Team and Yamaha in MotoGP, Hervé Poncharal (Director of the Tech3 Team) changed his course, decided to join forces with KTM and the Mattighofen company backed the Tech3 Team as a satellite squad in the MotoGP 2019 World Championship, lending two KTM RC16 motorcycles which were ridden by Miguel Oliveira, Hafizh Syahrin and Iker Lecuona, with the arrival of Mika Kallio in 2020 (replacing Hafizh Syahrin), until the present 2021 season in which the KTM Tech3 Team is made up by Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona. 

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And the first resounding successes of KTM in the MotoGP World Championship arrived in 2020, with nothing less than three victories throughout that season : 

- Brad Binder in the Gran Prix of the Czech Republic held at the Brno Circuit on August 9, 2020, beating Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco, first race won by KTM in MotoGP.

- Miguel Oliveira in the Gran Prix of Austria held at the Red Bull Ring Circuit of Spielberg on August 23, 2020, beating Jack Miller and Franco Morbidelli.

Besides, the perseverance of Pol Espargaró, who made a very good season, enabled him to get four podiums (3º in the Grand Prix of Austria, 3º in the Gran Prix of Italy in Misano, 3º in the Gran Prix of France at Le Mans and 3º in the Grand Prix of Valencia at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Cheste) and finish fifth in the general standing of the MotoGP 2020 World Championship, drawing in points with Andrea Dovizioso, who reached the fourth position.

A year 2020 in which KTM also achieved a highly commendable fourth position in the MotoGP Constructors´ Championship. 

c) Miguel Oliveira´s triumph in the MotoGP Grand Prix of Catalunya 2021 is likewise laudable because unlike what happened during the previous seasons in which KTM enjoyed the concessions bestowed by MotoGP to balance the championship and give some advantages to the least powerful brands, the Austrian firm hasn´t been allowed the unlimited tests and the participation of the official riders in them since Brad Binder´s victory at the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2020, Miguel Oliveira´s first victory in Spielberg on August 23 of that year and Paul Espargaró´s third position, and in addition, they can only choose three circuits to evolve the bike with their test riders Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio. 

Moreover, KTM has had a limited number of tyres for those tests since August 2020 and can only use seven engines for the entire season, instead of the nine available until then. 

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It has been known for some years that Miguel Oliveira is a top-notch rider of international dimension, as proved by his six victories in Moto3 between 2011-2015 and six victories in Moto2 between 2016-2018, along with his three victories and four podiums in MotoGP. 

In only two seasons since his arrival at MotoGP in 2019 as a rider of the Tech3 Team, satellite of KTM, Oliveira made the transition from being a prospective pilot in the queen category to become a winning reality, with his two victories at the Red Bull Ring Circuit in Spielberg and the Algarve Autodrome that year, something that he has utterly confirmed with his very recent triumph at the MotoGP Grand Prix of Catalunya 2021. 

But Miguel Oliveira´s trajectory in MotoGP hasn´t been easy at all, proving his true mettle with a stunning mental strength before all kind of difficulties, something that had its turning point on August 25, 2019 during the Grand Prix of Great Britain at the Silverstone Circuit, when with twelve laps to go Johann Zarco (his KTM teammate at the moment) crashed against the Portuguese rider and both of them fell on the ground. 

That fall brought about Miguel Oliveira a shoulder injury, subsequently needing roughly three months to recover from it, so it significantly depleted his performance in the following races during the 2019 season, and his physical ability was even more spoilt after his accident on October 26 of that year in the first bend of the FP4 at the MotoGP Grand Prix of Australia in the Phillip Island Circuit, when stepping on grass because of a strong gust of wind, was injured in both hands and couldn´t take part in either the rest of qualifying tests or the Sunday October 27 race.

A year later, Oliveira plucked up courage again, when after a disappointing start of the MotoGP 2021 World Championship in which he couldn´t score points either in the Grand Prix of Andalusia at the Circuit of Jerez (where he was hit by Brad Binder in the first curve of the first lap, falling to the ground), a week later, on August 23 of that year, he was able to win the Grand Prix of Styria in the same circuit, beating Jack Miller and Pol Espargaró. 

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Miguel Oliveira is a rider standing out for his bravery and fighting spirit on the bike, a true warrior giving all of himself on each meter of race, with a great working ability, stamina and endurance, but having also shown talent and intuition to spare, as happened, to name only an example, when he won the aforementioned race of the MotoGP Grand Prix of Styria 2020 at the Red Bull Ring Circuit in Spielberg, with an epic last lap in which he fought to exhaustion with Jack Miller and Pol Espargaró, whom he managed to overtake like a missile in the final bend, at few meters from the finishing line, showing that he can also be cool and keep his adrenaline under control, riding with intelligence and maturity, according to the race circumstances. 

But in my opinion, with this victory in the Grand Prix of Catalunya 2021 at Montmeló Circuit (his third one in MotoGP), Miguel Oliveira has gone beyond himself, proving that he is capable of powerfully speeding away from the beginning in a MotoGP race, bearing the onslaughts of very fast pilots that are currently among the MotoGP World Championship cream of the crop, like Fabio Quartararo (probably the man with best pace of the competition presently and its leader), Pecco Bagnaia (a rider struggling for the title along with Quartararo, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller and Joan Mir) and Johann Zarco (being in great condition, leveraging the Ducati Desmosedici GP21 lent by the Borgo Panigale firm to the Pramac Racing Team). 

Furthermore, Oliveira made a great reading of the tempos of a race in which Jack Miller took the lead after beginning second in the starting grid, until the Portuguese rider (who started the race in fourth place) attacked with great intelligence in the lap 4, managing to insightfully overtake the Australian pilot, on realizing an error committed by him, subsequently beating Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco in particular duels, something at the reach of very few MotoGP riders. 

And if all this were not enough, Miguel Oliveira didn´t make a single error

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before the tremendous pressure exerted on him by Johann Zarco during the last race laps, crossing the finishing line as a winner with a time of 40:21.749, followed by Johann Zarco at 00:00.175 s and Jack Miller at 00:01.990 s. 


In addition to the prowess of pilots like Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder and Pol Espargaró, one of the key factors in the victories that KTM is obtaining in MotoGP races is the sensational mechanic and technological progression of the KTM R16 saga, a bike designed and built in Austria, which has experienced four years of development since it made its debut as a wildcard ridden by the test pilot Mika Kallio during the MotoGP Grand Prix of Valencia in 2016. 

Featuring a four-stroke V4 engine, with bore x stroke of 81 x 48.5 mm, a capacity of 1000 cc and a power of 270 hp at 19,000 rpm, it boasts a pneumatic valve train, stainless-steel Trellis tubular frame (which KTM has turned into one of his main hallmarks, using the most cutting-edge technology in the world regarding this metal, winning in flexibility, control of the stiffness variations, weight lightness and confidence for the rider), aluminum swingarm, front and back Brembo brakes, seamless change, Magneti-Marelli electronics and two titanium Akrapovic exhausts ( one protruding from the tail and the other one under the right foot of the pilot ), all of it with a very light weight of 157 kg. 

Furthermore, the KTM R16 for the MotoGP 2021 season sports a new engine, though not radically different to the one of 2020, since the bike concept is the same. 

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But the technological and mechanical level required by MotoGP is huge, and by dint of strenuous effort, tenacity, huge knowledge, experience, talent and motivation in his engineers and mechanics, KTM has managed to evolve from being a newbie firm in the queen category to win MotoGP races facing Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki, etc, as well as beginning to stand as a future challenger able to conquer the MotoGP World Championship. 

And the great architect of this prodigious technological breakthrough in the KTM RC16 for MotoGP, making it forge ahead from two seconds of delay per lap in its starting stage in comparison to the best riders and bikes of the MotoGP World Championship, until being nowadays among the élite of the queen category, has been the genius engineer Wolfgang Felber (Technical Director of the Road Race Department at KTM Sportmotorcycle).

As a matter of fact, it shouldn´t be forgotten that the engine featured now by the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike is the evolutive pinnacle of a breed that was incepted in 2002 with the project of very compact and robust four-stroke GP1 V4 990 engine with four cylinders in 75º angle (discontinued in 2003), whose chief engineer was Wolfgang Felber and a pioneer powerplant in KTM as to the use of cam followers and radially arranged valves, with which the Austrian firm started trying to dabble in the scope of circuit races, and whose designer was Kurt Trieb (who had previous experience in Formula 1 with Porsche and BMW). 

Wolfgang Felber has an experience of more than forty years within KTM and has been the creator of many different KTM motorcycles (including some offroad models, a product segment in which they have been the reference-class brand for many years, boosted by the feats of the FIM Legend Heinz Kinigadner, winner of two consecutive Motocross World Championships in 1984 and 1985 and who was KTM Sports Director during the first decade of XXI Century, in addition to the impressive international successes achieved by Marc Coma winning with KTM bike nothing less than five Rallies Dakar in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015). 

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He has made up together with Stefan Pierer (CEO of KTM), Pit Beirer (KTM´s Motorsport Director) and Jens Hainbach (Vicepresident of KTM Motorsport Road Racing and Chief Responsible for MotoGP) the quartet of key men in the great international expansion of KTM until turning it into a highly relevant firm of the motorcycling sector, with a comprehensive range of two-wheeled machines, as well as being the main driving forces of KTM MotoGP Project, in symbiosis with the Team Manager Mike Leitner, without forgetting the great labour made by Kurt Trieb (Chief Designer of Engines, with abundant previous experience in Porsche, Rotax and BMW, until becoming a major figure in the KTM Competition Department from 2003), creator of the new KTM V4 MotoGP powerplant delivering great efficiency and mechanical reliability, and who already in 2005 was the chief designer of the original KTM 990 cc MotoGP engine running briefly that year. 

To all of this we must add Wolfgang Felber´s immense know-how in the design of different models of chassis constantly improving the performance of the KTM RC16 bike in the MotoGP World Championship races, something that has been particularly apparent in the recent Grand Prix of Mugello and Montmeló, in which Miguel Oliveira has been even more competitive, thanks to a new chassis that has significantly improved the turning and corner speed, resulting in a better exit of the curves, as well as having greatly reduced the possibility of overloadings in the front tyre. 

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KTM´s competitive ontology in MotoGP is based on six fundamental tenets : 

a) MotoGP is the queen category, so it is the ideal environment to enhance the technological innovation of any high level firm hankering for a maximum feasible qualitative evolution and performance in its models. 

b) Trophies are the best sales pitch in existence, so trying to get good results in MotoGP is fundamental for the Austrian company, since it is the most prestigious motorcycling competition in the world from both a technological and riders level viewpoint. 

KTM is fully aware that even currently being the European maker selling more motorcycles, it is a just arrived firm at MotoGP and its renown among the most mythical brands in the History of Motorcycling is far from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati (in spite of the fact that the Italian company sells approximately 53,000 bikes a year, in comparison to the 280,000 units sold by the Austrian firm in 2019, after nine consecutive years getting record revenue for a European motorcycling brand). 

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c) Attaining the best possible balance between top speed, cornering, acceleration after going out of bends and management of tyres degradation, in symbiosis with a constantly improved aerodynamics. 

KTM seems to have significantly upped the ante in all of these sides, bearing in mind the performance exhibited during the MotoGP Grand Prix of Catalunya 2021 at the Montmeló Circuit by Miguel Oliveira, who brilliantly defended himself from the attacks made by Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha bikes are perhaps the best ones of the competition on cornering) and Johann Zarco (the Ducati Desmosedici GP21 are by far the fastest bikes in the straight tracts and the ones featuring more acceleration after going out of bends). 

Even, regarding maximum speed, KTM seems to be already within the MotoGP elite, as was proved by Brad Binder in Mugello 2021, reaching a top speed of 362,4 km/h, equalling the record that had previously been set by Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) during the FP4 in Qatar 2021. 

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d) The appearance of the KTM bikes must be as beautiful and modern as possible, with a presence and colours evoking the firm values, strengthening the brand identity and depicting its personality. 

In this regard, the influence of Gerald Kiska (who worked within the Porsche Design Team in Austria between 1986 and 1990) has been essential, because the very special imprint of this chief designer and his agency in Salzburg (founded in 1990) holding 140 creative specialists, has greatly dictated the appearance, feeling and aesthetics of every KTM motorcycle since early nineties, with a distinctive look, in addition to bringing about the highly efficient integration of the different departments of Kiska Agency with the R & D and Marketing teams of KTM, which spawned first-rate level bikes like the KTM 1290 Super Duke R in 2013. 

e) Use of technology and components of its own, which are designed and manufactured in its factory, as happens for instance with the WP suspensions, unlike the Öhlins ones used by Honda, Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki. 

Because though being a small country, Austria has always been an international power in technology, something in which the motorcycle world is not an exception, as happened for example in 1989, when Álex Crivillé won the 125 cc World Championship with a JJ Cobas TB6 featuring 40 hp and an aluminium twin-spar frame, with which 13,200 rpm were reached and whose incredible reliability of Austrian Rotax engine boasting bore x stroke of 54 mm x 54,5 mm and rotary valve intake was achieved by the eminent engineer Eduardo Giró, who also fulfilled a masterful tuning of change and carburation, decisive to beat the Honda motorcycles ridden by Hans Spaan, Ezio Gianola and Hihashi Unemoto. 

And even presently, KTM has the most advanced technology in the world regarding injection systems for 2T engines : the TPI system, reducing fuel consumption, gases and pollution, as well as increasing reliability. 

Besides, needless to say that the impressive, highly innovative and original KTM RC8 1190 (featuring unique shape and incredibly futuristic design) with a totally new concept of chassis using a chrome-molibdene stainless-steel Trellis frame instead of the classic twin-spar one in aluminum and a four-stroke 1148 cc V-Twin at 75º engine boasting four valves per cylinder, delivering 155 hp at 10,000 rpm, unveiled as concept bike in the Tokyo Motorcycle Salon of 2004 and officially presented in the EICMA of Milan in 2007, was a a clear hint of what KTM technology was able to do in the sphere of top level sporting motorcycles, because it was created to compete with the extraordinary Ducati 1198 S.

f) The hiring of key persons in different scopes, because a great significance is given to the gathered human team. 

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Dani Pedrosa has been a hugely important figure in the success of KTM in MotoGP, thanks to his slog as a test rider, an aspect in which he is nowadays probably the world benchmark, followed by Casey Stoner, Michelle Pirro, Sylvain Guintoli, Hiroshi Aoyama, Mateo Baiocco and Julián Simón. 

Pedrosa, previously a world-class MotoGP pilot (runner-up of the championship in 2007, 2010 and 2012, as well as having been 125 cc World Champion in 2003 and 250 cc World Champion in 2004 and 2005) boasting an exceptional riding technique and talent, also being a great person, has fulfilled a far-reaching work as test pilot since 2018 until turning the KTM RC16 bike into a winning bike in MotoGP World Championship, completing each year a very comprehensive program of tests which has helped engineers and mechanics make the bike grow by leaps and bounds. 

Pedrosa fully grasps the concept that it is virtually impossible to 100% emulate with a computer the behaviour of a racing bike, specially the MotoGP ones, which are state-of-the-art prototypes and the most advanced technological platforms on two wheels, so everything must be tested on the track, unlike Formula 1 simulators, which yield more precision, since the pilot is inserted within a more specific space. 

Pedrosa has gleaned tons of experience in feelings and reactions on bikes depending on the circumstances of races, circuits and different stretches, so he knows that a rider on a MotoGP bike is much more unpredictable than a Formula 1 one as to movements, weight changes, etc.

Moreover, the mythical Samurai is a recognized master evolving a bike with which any pilot can run very fast, irrespective of his height, weight and riding style, as well as easing the adaptation of the newly arrived. Something that he already did in Honda throughout many years and at an extraordinary level. 

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In the same way, Dani Pedrosa tested ( mainly in the Red Bull Ring Circuit of Spielberg) new components just manufactured by KTM for its RC16 bike, in addition to having been fundamental to reduce the entrance in corners, which was longer than in the bikes of other brands, so the Austrian firm worked unabatedly in order to get a new chassis being as light and efficient as possible, optimizing the performance of swingarm, fork, seatpost, axle, etc, up to a total of roughly a hundred pieces, whose efficiency had to be tested, in addition to attaining an improvement of the bike electronics to get utmost acceleration without degrading the tyres. 

This is known both in Mattighofen and the impressive KTM Motorsport Building at Munderfing, the futuristic architecture edifice with more than 18,000 square meters designed by Architekturbüro Hofbauer from Wels, which has become the most important center for MotoGP operations of the Austrian motorcycling firm since 2016. 

And of course, the persons knowing it better are Stefan Pierer /CEO of KTM and great promoter of the company MotoGP Project) and Pit Beirer (Director of KTM Motorsport), who with very wise criterion have utterly supported Dani Pedrosa, often extolling the decisive role played by the Samurai from Castellar del Vallés (MotoGP Legend and FIM Hall of Fame) in KTM successes within the MotoGP World Championship, among which is included 

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this recent and amazing victory achieved by Miguel Oliveira in the MotoGP Grand Prix of Catalunya 2021. 

Whatever it may be, although KTM is standing at the moment as the second European motorcycling company along with Ducati able to beat the Japanese in races and even perhaps to strive after winning the championship in future, it is important to be wise, because the three victories and eight podiums attained by KTM in 2020 have set the bar high, each race and circuit is different and evidently Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati feature much more experience than KTM in MotoGP, and Marc Márquez´s performance decrease since its injury, has greatly opened a championship in which there are a number of riders from different teams able to win races, as happened during the last season 2020 (Joan Mir, Franco Morbidelli, Álex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo, Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder and Danilo Petrucci) and in the 2021 one hitherto (Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira).