KTM went their own way during an impressive debut MotoGP season, initially entering the RC16 with a unique frame, suspension and engine firing-order compared to the other factories.
But while the Austrian team soon switched from a screamer to big-bang firing order, technical director Sebastian Risse is adamant they do not need to follow the pack in terms of an aluminium twin-spar chassis (or Ohlins rather than WP suspension).
Risse explained that it’s not a question of whether a steel trellis frame is capable of providing the rigidity needed for MotoGP, but working out what chassis performance figures need to be built into the design.
“We have a lot of experience in other classes where this basic question is the same,” Risse said.
“At the moment the main point we are missing, and working on, is the knowhow – what exactly is the target [for the chassis properties].
“To achieve the target in terms of any particular design property is not a problem in steel, for us. We have a lot of knowhow in the manufacturing and the design process to do this with steel.
“But we need to know what these tyres want, what this class wants, because it’s a very powerful bike compared to the other classes where we have experience.
“This is mainly the process we are in now, but we believe we can do it in steel, clearly.”
KTM Motorsports also uses the steel trellis in all other classes of competition, including Moto3 and Moto2.
Reflecting on their first MotoGP season – which saw Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith take a best race finish of ninth and tenth respectively, while KTM beat Aprilia in the constructors’ championship – KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer declared:
“We had huge respect before we stepped in and prepared as well as we could, but you cannot prepare [fully] for your first MotoGP season. So we had to learn every day, every hour in this paddock. But things went better than we expected.
“We started on the very last row of the grid in Qatar. It was dark, a little bit rainy and we could almost not see the starting light!
“Then we made it up to the second row just a few weeks ago [Espargaro qualified sixth in Australia]. So, it was definitely an amazing development. Our team did a fantastic job. I have to thank all the riders and the team for this effort.
“We are happy and really proud to be part of this first-class motorcycle show.”
Espargaro and Smith will continue as KTM’s full time riders in 2018, with Mika Kallio (who finished tenth in Austria) again carrying out testing and wild-card duties.
Ducati raced a steel trellis frame from 2003-2008, albeit with the engine increasingly used as part of the main load-bearing structure (stressed). In other words, without the engine there was no physical link between the front and back wheels.
That concept prompted the leap to carbon fibre in 2009 but, after Valentino Rossi‘s struggles, Ducati have joined the Japanese in running an aluminium twin-spar frame from 2012, but still with a carbon fibre swingarm.