After the race debut of the 2017 KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike at Valencia, Spain, last year, many have asked what the new kid on the block is like, as a race bike? During the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) winter test at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC), we managed to get up close with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing RC16 in the SIC pit.

Still clad in plain matte-black carbon-fibre, the V-four RC16 we got an exclusive look at was Bradley Smith’s number 38 race machine. Sporting a broad, flattened, aggressive stance, much like the bulls in Red Bull’s logo, the RC16 comes to a narrow point at the top of the racing bubble.

With the twin Akrapovic exhausts – made from titanium, naturally – very much on display, the RC16 is still “under development.” This was said to by Phillip Grunberger, who is with KTM Group’s Press and PR Motorsport division. “The bike you see here today is still being worked on, and we will be making changes and improvements throughout the year,” said Grunberger.

Asked about the the rapid pace of development from the beginning of “Project RC16”, a little over a year-and-a-half ago, Grunberger admitted that chief executive officer Stefan Pierer’s announcement KTM would be mounting a MotoGP campaign in 2017 took everyone by surprise. “Yes, when the project was announced we did not even have one line of design on the computer, but all of us at KTM took the challenge,” he said.

Testing was in full swing when we visited the KTM pit at SIC, with MotoGP race bikes screaming down the front straight. Grunberger was kind enough to escort us through the back of the pit, and into the thick of the action as it were. Cautioned against taking any pictures of the RC16 with its fairings off, and staying out of the way of the mechanics, we spotted the WP suspension on display, as well as the carbon-carbon front brake discs from Brembo.

At the moment, Dorna, organisers of the MotoGP, has given KTM Factory Racing a special dispensation to make further changes to the RC16 through the 2017 season. This was allowed as a special case, as KTM are brand-new to the top-flight. “This allowance was also given to Suzuki previously, so it is not a new thing,” said Grunberger, “but at a certain point, they will say enough time is given, and we will perform like the other teams.”

“One of the advantages we have at KTM Racing is that as a small team we can respond very quickly to changes,” Grunberger said. “A matter of a phone call or e-mail from headquarters, and it is implemented fast. We hope to turn this into an advantage during the racing season, even with a new machine,” he said.