KTM missed points target in Qatar, admits Smith

Bradley Smith says KTM had been targeting a point on its first MotoGP weekend as a regular competitor in Qatar, a goal the Austrian marque narrowly missed out on.

New-for-2017 manufacturer KTM endured a difficult time during the Losail weekend, remaining firmly stuck at the bottom of the timesheets for the majority of the weekend.

Combined practice times left Pol Espargaro and Smith starting at the very back of the grid, in 22nd and 23rd, with the former’s best time ending up a full 2.8 seconds slower than poleman Maverick Vinales.

However, some attrition allowed the two KTM riders to move up to 16th and 17th places by the end of the race, both beating Aprilia’s Sam Lowes.

Espargaro ended up missing out on 15th and the final point by a little over four seconds, a result Smith said was encouraging for its first race.

“The target was points, we were very close all considered,” said Smith. “Pol being 16th, me being 17th, the goal was to scrape one point so it’s disappointing that we missed out on it.

“I think Pol was only about four seconds off, so it was a realistic situation. Had we had FP4 and qualifying, perhaps things would have been different.

“Up until now we didn’t really have an idea of what does the bike actually does over a race distance. We had no time to check during any of the tests, so we went into the unknown.

“But in the grand scheme of things, the plan was to get both bikes across the finish line, gain as much data as we possibly could. I think we have to be happy with this opening night.”

Espargaro: Qatar our weakest track

Espargaro was similarly upbeat despite falling short of the points, saying that Qatar had been the hardest track for KTM during the pre-season.

“For sure, this track for us was our weakest track,” he explained. “We have tried this bike at Phillip Island, Valencia, Malaysia and Jerez – and this is the place where we were farthest.

“We expected something worse in the race, honestly. We could be just 1.6s per lap [slower than the leaders] so we need to take the positive things.

“We arrived four seconds off some Ducatis and one Honda [Tito Rabat], but it’s a good start. The team is happy, KTM has made history today, and this is the most important.”

Additional reporting by Mitchell Adam