World Champions Red Bull KTM are wading through a busy off-season period as the works team continue work and preparation on the 2016 pre-production machinery that will form the basis of their equipment in the MXGP and MX2 classes for the 2015 FIM Motocross World Championship.
The Austrian squad will head to Italy in a matter of weeks for their last major session of the year and in a quest to optimise set-up for next season even if the MX2 programme is facing adversity due to Jeffrey Herlings’ injury and Pauls Jonass’ rookie status as a factory rider.
“We have our big test in Rome in November and at the moment we have all of the MXGP riders confirmed,” said Technical Co-ordinator Dirk Gruebel. “It is better to head there as the weather conditions will soon start to ‘turn’ further north. For MX2 at the moment we are considering inviting Pauls but Jeffrey is not ready yet.”
The German revealed that progress on the new prototype 250SX-F has been inhibited by the situation around the riders and is a scenario they haven’t faced for the past three years. “It is tough and a bit of a problem,” he reveals.
“Jeffrey cannot test what we have new for him while for Pauls everything feels new and is good! We need to make some steps and what is good for Pauls might not be for Jeffrey. I’m actually considering asking Tony [Cairoli] to try it. As we’ve all seen he likes and is fast on the 250 and he might be able to provide a direction at this stage.”
Champions in both categories for the past five years, the team will field three riders in the premier MXGP division for 2015 for the first time since current representative Ken De Dycker was drafted in alongside Cairoli and Max Nagl in 2012.
Tommy Searle will start work in earnest with the team he last rode for in 2008 at the Rome meeting. While De Dycker is finally returning to fitness after further wrist surgery. “It will be interesting with Tommy,” says Gruebel. “He will start riding next week I believe so he should be giving some good feedback while Ken is also coming back from a long time away with injury. He hasn’t even ridden the new bike yet so there is some work there.”
Regarding the 2016 race bikes the technician believes that the technology and composition of the 250, 350 and 450SX-Fs will mark a step forward for what is already the leading motorcycles in the Grand Prix gate: “It [the 2016 line] is completely new so that means we have work to do but we already have a really good base,” Gruebel says. “The feedback from the riders has been along the lines that they really like how the motorcycles feel and there has been some surprise at the handling.”
Red Bull KTM know time is tight; not only are there two new riders and a host of fresh machinery to bed-in before the ’15 campaign starts at Losail but they are also fitting a new race truck for most of the eighteen dates next year. Gruebel: “We are preparing a new trailer because the older one had a lot of mileage. Before we know it we’ll have to ship material to Qatar in the middle of February; it is a tough schedule.”
Meanwhile 2014 MX2 Championship runner-up Jeffrey Herlings is taking the advice and counsel of experts in the Red Bull clinic in Austria to try and accelerate his comeback from a broken femur. “Jeffrey is in Salzburg for four weeks at Red Bull. I think he wants to try something different with his recovery and wants to see progress,” offers Gruebel.