KTM boss hails ‘incredible’ Pedrosa top 10

The damaged bikes of Dani Pedrosa (#26) and Lorenzo Savadori (#32). Picture: MotoGP.com

KTM team boss Mike Leitner has described Dani Pedrosa’s top 10 as a wildcard in the Michelin Grand Prix of Styria, after a fiery crash, as “pretty incredible”.

Pedrosa, now a KTM test rider, was not sure of what to expect ahead of his first round in more than two-and-a-half years, at the Red Bull Ring, but impressed with 12th in practice and 14th in qualifying.

He was running 12th when he went down exiting Turn 3 on Lap 3 of the race and Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori careered into the stricken RC16.

That smash led to a fire and a red flag, before a full race restart was held around 40 minutes after the original.

Pedrosa gradually made his way to 11th at the chequered flag, but gained another spot when Francesco Bagnaia was penalised for not serving a long lap.

“We had five bikes on the grid and four finished, including Dani in 10th which was pretty incredible,” said Leitner, Red Bull KTM’s race manager, referring also to the factory-supported Tech3 entries.

Pedrosa had to revert to his spare bike, but the variable weather in Spielberg meant there was a rush to convert that from its wet set-up.

The Spaniard took it easy in the early stages after the restart, but made ground as he found his rhythm.

“I think it is a good result and we are happy with the outcome and from what we have learned this weekend,” he said.

“I was riding well in the first race and I don’t know why but in the slow Turn 3 I lost the front. It was so slow that I stayed in the middle of the track and Savadori hit the bike.

“We created quite a big mess there. I hope he is OK.

“It was a bit tricky then because our second bike was set up for the wet but we could make the changes and for the restart I thought ‘OK, let’s try to finish the race’.

“I was more calm, more cautious and I didn’t push too much at the beginning which meant I lost a lot of ground.

“Once I had the feeling of the track and the bike I could push more and gained some positions as riders around me made mistakes.”

The 35-year-old said before the weekend that he was hoping to learn about contemporary MotoGP competition, including the difficulties racing in traffic, and did indeed ticked that box.

Dani Pedrosa

“I was closing up to the group and it was interesting to feel how the tyres were working; it is different to testing but also what I felt in practice during the weekend,” added Pedrosa.

“The top 10 is good. Thank you to KTM and all my mechanics. They did a great job because we had a few moments when they had to work really hard.

“Thanks also to the fans, I hope they enjoyed the race.”

Team-mate Brad Binder also had a remarkable afternoon, starting 16th but finishing fourth.

The South African had been sixth at the start of the 27th and final lap, before he passed Johann Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami on the final lap.

However, Binder remains unhappy with the 2021 front tyre allocation, which has troubled the KTMs since the season began.

“Today was a bit of chaos for the first race back,” he recounted.

“I almost crashed on the sighting lap of the first race actually. I don’t know why but it felt like the front tyre had no temperature and for the first flying lap it was like it was wet. We need to look and see what happened.

“I went down to 25th at one point because I almost ran off the track. I passed four to five guys in the next laps until the red flag.

“The restart was much better and I had more confidence even if we really need a harder front tyre. It is way too weak for us.

“I was riding on the tyre limit the whole race but managed to make a couple of moves to take fourth, which I was really happy with.”

Brad Binder

Miguel Oliveira, on the other Red Bull KTM, failed to finish due to a front tyre issue of his own.

The Portuguese rider had been circulating on the cusp of the top 10, as he battled a micro-fracture in his right wrist due to a Friday practice highside.

“I’m disappointed not to finish the race,” said Oliveira.

“I felt that the ‘second’ race was going a bit better for me, I could find better lines and make some positions.

“Behind Brad, I was managing the tyres and keeping cool but then I started to have a lot of vibration and had to retire because of a tyre problem.

“It’s disappointing because you feel like all the effort has been for nothing.

“It wouldn’t have been our best result, this weekend, but we could have taken a nice top 10 from all that we have been through here.

“The wrist is getting better day-by-day and all the things we are doing to take care of it are working.

“Hopefully, through the week we can arrive to the best shape possible for the second race here in Spielberg.”

Savadori was initially declared fit after his scary crash, but later found to have a broken ankle bone and is likely to miss at least one race.

Oliveira and Binder sit seventh and eighth respectively in the championship ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, back at the Red Bull Ring, this coming weekend (August 13-15).

Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section

Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]