Red Bull KTM Factory Racing outfit unveiled its 2018 MotoGP machinery in Salzburg at Red Bull's Hangar-7 on Monday in the presence of its riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro along with test rider Mika Kallio and the team officials.
The new RC16 sports a revised livery with the colour combination remaining the same that of dark blue, orange and a darker shade of yellow, but as seen in the other Red Bull-backed cars, it comes with a matt finish.
The Austrian manufacturer made its premier class debut last year, but still managed to beat Aprilia in the manufacturers' standings, while finished 10th in the teams' standings. Its riders Espargaro was 17th with 55 to his name, while Smith was 21st with 29 points.
Meanwhile, Kallio ran in four grand prixs to be 24th with 11 points last year. The Finn will get five wildcard rounds in the 2018 season as well in Jerez, Barcelona, Sachsenring, Red Bull Ring and Aragon.
In the recent pre-season testing in Malaysia, Thailand and Qatar saw Smith complete all the three tests finishing 19th, 18th and 14th respectively, while teammate Espargaro had a limited running after his crash in Malaysia.
The Spaniard was 17th and 20th in the first and last test as he missed running in Thailand, while Kallio finished 18th, 19th and 25th respectively in the limited running he had on the new bike.
Espargaro said: "I feel better, much better than a week ago in Qatar. I’ve had some time to rest, train and get ready so now we’ll see. It is important to be physically fit because these bikes move a lot and you have to be at the best level for the biggest amount of laps.
"I’m missing some days on track but KTM, Bradley and Mika have done a great job to continue developing the bike. One good thing about KTM is that you know where you’ll start in the races but never where you’ll finish: we were the last two in Qatar last year and then we made it to the top ten.
"I think KTM is the first in history to do something like that in their first year. So we know where we’ll start – fighting for the top ten – but to finish? Maybe the top six, I hope so. I hope we can achieve even more."
Smith added: "I’m back to normal and back to feeling comfortable, making progress and gaining confidence. We managed 14 days of testing this winter: so lots of laps, understanding and improvement. Of course the process never finishes.
"We were improving in every test and that's all we can ask for. It is exciting starting the season in this shape and if we put everything together then we can start where we left off; and that is not ‘a given’ as everyone else has been working.
"What a story it would be to take this bike from those positions in Qatar last year to a podium or maybe a win. We believe in everyone around this project and they also believe in us."
Team Manager Mike Leitner commented: “We had some major steps to make in 2016 when we started with a blank paper and had to think about a bike. You need good technicians for that but there is real power and energy at KTM.
"In 2017 we started racing and the level of competition in MotoGP means that you find out about the small pieces you are missing; you don't get that through testing. We made really good steps on engine and with lots of chassis work and with suspension.
"This winter we did a lot of work, and the rider feedback was good with the direction we have taken. The competition will not be sleeping so we will see where we are in these first races. If everything goes in a good way for us then we can start where we finished 2017 and then the riders can push."
About the Author
Darshan Chokhani is a FIA Accredited journalist covering both Indian and International championships, including Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E, World Endurance Championship and more. Although specialising in motor racing, but follows Cricket, Tennis, WWE and events involving Indian athletes.