After a 2020 season in which KTM shone, winning three races and demonstrating its new-found competitiveness, 2021 has failed to begin in the same way.
The layout of the Losail track certainly didn’t help the Austrian manufacturer’s riders, who were unable to play a starring role over the two weekends and return to Europe with less than satisfactory results. At least compared to what we saw last year, a season in which there was no Qatari round.
Binder saves KTM
The two races did bring one improvement though. While the strongest KTM rider in race one was Miguel Oliveira, thirteenth, ahead of Brad Binder, in race two the South African was able to finish in the top eight. Binder, who won the third GP of the 2020 season in what was his rookie year, closed less than five seconds from the winner and showed up his fellow KTM riders. Although his team-mate Oliveira made a great start and was part of the leading group, he gradually lost ground over the course of the 22-lap race, finishing just 15th and scoring only one championship point.
A rather meagre outcome, although Binder's performance does offer a glimmer of hope ahead of the next races.
And so it is that the next GP, scheduled to take place on 18 April at Portimao, will serve as something of an acid test. Just five months ago, Oliveira dominated in his home race, navigating the ups and downs and blind corners of the Portuguese track to power his KTM RC16 across the line first, and the team will be keen for him to do it again. With Binder on hand to steal the show perhaps.
Tech 3 disaster
The satellite team’s riders faced even more of an uphill climb. Danilo Petrucci and team-mate Iker Lecuona (who has had surgery for compartmental syndrome) left Qatar with zero points, following what were clearly two difficult races. Both finished only one of the two, the Italian in 19th position and the Spaniard 17th, and they now need to understand what went wrong so that they can turn things around at the next European rounds.
Translated by Heather Watson