2012 undoubtedly was a very successful year for KTM’s road-racing department as they took the top 4 places in the Moto 3 category.
As a MotoGP fan, naturally I was interested in their race winning 250 cc Moto3 bike. However, after reading more about the bike and KTM’s involvement in road racing, I realised that this was actually not KTM’s first attempt into MotoGP racing!
Based on what I’ve found out, I’ve written an article about KTM in road racing, their successful Moto3 bike and their new production racer, the RC 250 R. Hope you’ll enjoy reading it!
It may seem that KTM had a fairy tale start in the 2012 MotoGP World Championship – a first year ‘rookie’ constructor that ends up taking the top 4 places in the Moto3 category.
However, this is not completely true, for KTM have endured their share of setbacks in earlier years.
Their first foray into MotoGP was in actually 2005. At the time, KTM entered into an arrangement with Kenny Robert’s Team Roberts as an engine supplier.
Team Roberts had initially developed their own engine, the KR 5, in 2002 with Proton funding, but soon realised that it was not going to be competitive against the dominant Japanese factory teams at the time, it made only 185 hp compared to 240 for the competition.
Looking to improve their competitiveness, they thus sought a partnership with KTM to develop an engine to replace the KR5. Things started promisingly, with the KTM V4 indeed faster than the KR5. However, when the season started, it soon became clear that the V4 was still not good enough. Mid-way through the season after only 10 races, with no results materialising, KTM withdrew their support.
The split between KTM and Team Roberts was acrimonious, with Kenny Roberts claiming that KTM ‘breached their MotoGP commitment‘
Thomas Felber, the man leading the V4 development at the time, admits that that was a difficult time then. While the V4 made good power and was rideable, there wasn’t enough time and electronics to make it fully competitive. ‘Maybe we entered MotoGP too soon’ he says.
However, it wasn’t a completely a wasted effort. Everything they learnt about building their V4 proved immensely useful in building their Moto3 winning bike.
Re-entry in 2012
In 2011, after a six year hiatus, KTM signalled a return to MotoGP racing by entering the Moto3 class for the 2012 season.
Not content with merely playing a support role, this time they chose to go the whole way by entering as a factory team. They kept everything in-house, developing the engine and chassis completely at the headquarters in Mattighofen.
On a separate programme, however, KTM provided engines to German chassis manufacturer KALEX to run, in parallel, an additional KALEX KTM Racing Team.
The path of in-house development worked, with KTM’s results in Moto3 being completely opposite to their ill-fated 2005 foray into MotoGP.
When the 2012 Moto3 season ended, the top 4 positions were occupied by KTM riders.
2012 Moto3 bike
The race-winning KTM Moto3 is nothing short of an engineering marvel.
The 250 cc engine is highly over-square with a 81 mm bore and a 48.5 mm stroke. It revs to 13,800 rpm and makes 54 hp at the limit. At just 25 kg (55lbs) dry, you could say it is feather weight.
The chassis comprises of a a steel trellis frame with an under-braced aluminium swing arm, a carbon fibre self-supporting rear subframe and a seat unit are bolted to it. The headstock and swingarm positions are adjustable for tuning the chassis to specific track requirements.
The fairing of the bike was designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Using sophisticated computer algorithms to predict how air would flow over the bike, KTM started improving the aerodynamics of the bike even before a single piece of carbon fibre was laid.
Following CFD, the bike was then physically tested in Dallara’s windtunnel in Italy. The lift-drag ratio was fine tuned there. See the small tail-piece to keep air flowing smoothly? That was completely determined by wind-tunnel testing.
2013 production racer – RC 250 R
Following their 2012 success, for 2013 KTM is developing a production racer of the Moto 3 bike – the RC 250 R.
A production racer is a motorbike made specifically for the track racing, but can be bought direct from the manufacturer to be raced ‘out of the box’. For US $54,000, customer teams and other ambitious privateers will be able to purchase this bike for races in 250 cc 4-stroke classes.
While certainly not cheap, the RC 250 R is essentially similar to the Moto3 bike. In fact, all the Moto3 components be purchased separately and fitted on the production racer, making it identical.
Say’s KTM’s Head of Road Racing, Wolfgang Felber:
‘The basis of the Production Racer is not much different to our Grand Prix motorcycle. The GP bike is only adapted to suit the current Moto3 regulations’ for example it runs with the regulation Dell’Orto electronics unit, has a maximum of 14,000 revolutions and has an Akrapovic exhaust system that allows 115 dB. OZ magnesium wheels, a factory braking system with dual brake disks from Brembo in the front and WP Suspension elements all save weight – but basically these are also components that can all be fitted to the RC 250 R Production Racer!”
Specification wise, the production racer has a slightly lower power output of 49.6 hp at 13,500 (vs 54 at 14,000 for Moto 3). Front and rear Suspension is provided by WP and completely adjustable with 20 settings each. Wheels are forged aluminium instead of magnesium. Dry weight is 82 kg (181 lbs).
Complete specs for the KTM RC 250 R production racer can be found here.
So there you go, a look at KTM’s initial unsuccessful attempt at road-racing, followed by later success and how their building on their success with the RC 250 R. I hope you enjoyed reading my article.
If so, leave a comment or feedback, much appreciated! :)