What is slightly different about the race bike at the forefront of Moto3? We ask the people taking care of it every weekend …
Jordi Gallardo is a little bemused. We are inside KTM’s narrow and slightly claustrophobic pit box and the mechanics are busy on the ‘41’ and ‘64’ KTM RC250 GPs (weighing around 80kg each and with a mysterious bhp, save to say it is damn fast … and apparently super-agile). Fairings and other parts of the bike are dotted around, propped up against panels in an ordered way. It is tight for space but there is a distinct feeling of precision about the set-up. We interrupt Jordi in the midst of a plan for tomorrow’s work. The first day of this particular MotoGP event is in the books and the team are thinking of practice and qualification. Despite the intrusion (we had an appointment) Jordi is happy to talk but we catch him off guard with our reason for being here. We want to know what is a little bit special or different about the Binder and Bendsneyder bikes. What unique touches set them apart?
Gallardo, who is in his sixth year with the team and is Binder’s crew chief in what is turning out to be a prosperous season so far, can only smile and say: “Well, to be honest the bikes are completely the same! Only the bars – which are a bit closer to Brad – and the seat foam are the real differences.”
We cannot let him get away that easy. “The setting of the bike depends a lot on the weight of the rider,” the Spaniard carries on. “Bo is taller so we use more modifications on the rear and the bike is a bit larger so he fits. The handlebars are a bit bigger and the seat doesn’t have any foam. In comparison Brad has the bars closer [to him] and some foam at 20mm to help have the weight further forward.”
Getting Binder more over the front of the bike seemed to be something the team were aiming for and the effect has been positive. “Last year he always had the weight further back and the arms stretched and we worked on that position,” he claims. “It’s a lot better this year and he puts more weight over the front of the bike and it’s easier to steer. It makes life easier for us when he rides this way. Brad saw that last year he could feel more comfortable by changing.”
Binder has undoubtedly made the headlines in 2016. From that stunning first win in Jerez to the amazing dogfight at Mugello and the championship lead from the European phase of the series. The spotlight on the South African has allowed rookie Bendsneyder to quietly learn the intricacies of the factory bike and the intense Moto3 class. We press Gallardo on whether the riders were adamant about any improvements for the 2016 version of their ‘steeds’. “We started this year with what we had last season and there were not too many differences,” he smiles. “We tried a new seat unit and there were some positives but also negatives so in the end we used one that gave us the best balance.”
“When both riders are that happy with the bike that you finish the year then there is not much you want to try or change and we kept working in the same technical direction. We haven’t altered much and that’s because the bike works!”
After five years fettling KTM’s effort in Moto3 Jordi is well placed to give us his verdict on the current model we see partly dismantled before us; a mass of glimmering material and pristine components. “Without a doubt this is the best bike we have had,” he says with conviction. “We started in 2012 and the way to work on the bike now is much more simple. The first version was a little bit more laborious to change things; a couple of strange ideas … and we came from many years working with Aprilias and Hondas. It was different … but honestly really good and we ended up with a pretty special bike.”
Lastly we want to know a bit more about Binder. Does he have a kinship with the bike like Rossi famously has with his MotoGP machine? “He likes putting his little stickers on the bike as well, his small logos, but he’s not super-special with these,” Gallardo says before offering some more insight. “It always takes a bit of time to listen to a rider and get used to how he expresses himself. Brad is quite direct and expressive with what he wants. He really lives this sport. We are super happy working with him … he doesn’t complain much!”
We cannot complain too much either. A mission to grab some secrets about the works KTM RC250 GPs ultimately ends in the clear realization that it is the combination of the rider and the team that makes the magic. Through being up-close in the garage and then watching Moto3 it is clear how much the athlete has to ‘bring to the game’ once he has an optimal race bike underneath him. At this point it seems like Red Bull KTM are getting it all right.