KTM RC16 MotoGP Race Bike Revealed

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

KTM‘s new MotoGP race bike made its public debut ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. We’ve previously seen the KTM RC16 undergoing testing last October, but this is the first time we’d seen the V-4 prototype in full colored livery and, as KTM is fond of saying, just about “Ready to Race.” KTM has four more tests lined up before it plans to enter the RC16 at the Nov. 13 season-ending race at Valencia, Spain.

The V-4 engine configuration is fairly standard in MotoGP now, but the RC16 does stand out by using a steel tubular chassis. The WP suspension also stands out against a field equipped entirely with Öhlins but comes as no big surprise, as WP is owned by KTM’s parent company, Cross Industries. While this combination is unique in the premier class, KTM has tasted success with its similarly set-up Moto3 bikes.

Test riders Mika Kallio and Alex Hofmann took the RC16 out for some demonstration laps of the Red Bull Ring circuit ahead of the MotoGP race. Last month at a MotoGP test on the same track, Kallio recorded a fastest lap time of 1:25.191, putting him 1.951 seconds behind Ducati’s Andrea Iannone’s field-leading fastest lap during that same test (Iannone also won this weekend’s race, posting a fastest race lap of 1:24.561 on a revised course layout).

“The first time I was on the bike I felt the basis was there and the lap times were already on a good level,” says Kallio. “We have needed to improve a lot of things and we did this. I think a few weeks ago we demonstrated to everyone that we’re on a good level. It was good to be on the bike and I really enjoyed all the laps I did. We are already quite close to our competitors and step-by-step we are improving. I would say the engine on this bike is already good and now we have four more tests before Valencia.”

KTM is keeping its expectations low for the RC16’s Valencia debut. KTM Technical Director Onroad Sebastien Risse, who helmed the project, says he’s calling the Wildcard entry an extended test under full race conditions. Suzuki used a similar tactic in 2014, entering its GSX-RR at the last round of that season before returning to MotoGP full-time the following year.

“So when the lights go out at Valencia in November, we will get a real experience of
all our technical work and team preparation,” says Risse. Nothing beats the pressure of a race to create a real test.”

KTM is also entering the Moto2 series next season, despite having to use the spec Honda engine. Including the Red Bull Rookies, KTM will be the only manufacturer to have machines in all Grand Prix road racing classes. That’s an impressive achievement for a company best known for its off-road racing heritage.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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  • John phyyt John phyyt on Aug 15, 2016

    I love what KTM is doing . Good luck to them.
    I forsee a change to Aluminium or preferably Carbon for the frame. The riders and team will be close , but pretty shortly they will be looking at the front runners and screaming that they can't seem to get the final tenths. Face it you need to have everything right to run at the front. and If steel tubes where competitive Ducati would still be using them. To win in moto GP you don't need to be different just a little better. And "of course" Have the best riders on board. Casey Stoner was the last winner on Steel tubes but even with his talent the game has moved on.

    • Spiff Spiff on Aug 17, 2016

      Overall I agree with your logic, except... Sometimes you have to take a different approach if you want to leap frog the group. The options to try carbon or adopt the aluminium norm are still there, but coming in with a clean slate and not compromising your vision can pan out. No one is sure of what alloys the are using. maybe they figured something out. Every move they have made in the last five years have been solid, I hope they have a rabbit in their hat.

  • DickRuble DickRuble on Aug 16, 2016

    Great looking bike. Narrow, clean, no nonsense plastic creases, folds, and wrinkles... Why can't they produce a street bike with the clean looks of the RC16? I would settle for an 800cc with the same design, minus the busy colors.

    • Spiff Spiff on Aug 17, 2016

      I agree, function over form, and the boxy has an old school feel.