Today is not a normal day. Yesterday was not a normal day either after engaging in carry-on combat with Benidorm-bound tourists on an averagely mediocre flight from London Gatwick. Needless to say I persevered in my avoidance of the Spanish strain of Ebola, and my trusty EasyJet flying machine navigated myself and my overpriced luggage allowance to the sun-kissed moto Mecca of Valencia in southern Spain.
This is my very first ‘article’ of sorts for 44teeth and, to be honest with you, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing here amongst a select committee of just 12 journalists from around the globe. I’m the only representative from the UK, so the pressure is on not to make a cock of myself… and to try and avoid crashing a GP bike.
So, the format is to ride the Production bike first. This is the foundation model KTM supply to teams to go racing. It’s a 250cc single-cylinder, high compression engine and it’s ear bleedingly loud. It costs around €45,000 and you can just turn up with the cash. From there it’s onto a KTM Rookies Cup bike which is based on the production bike, but with upgraded parts plus team knowledge and set-up. After that, it’s the full-fat Factory Moto 3 machine: this is the actual Jack Miller bike which battled for the championship on this very track just 3 weeks ago.
So, what’s it like? First of all, it’s expensive. So that’s what’s running though my mind. Don’t. Bloody. Crash. Second of all, being 6’4 – how the buggery am I going to fit on it?
It’s a complete departure from the 1000cc bikes I’m used to riding everyday. Everything feels more linear, acceleration, braking, cornering. It feels like it just stays flat, unsettled and solid. Braking is actually pretty strong but there is very little dive and very little engine braking, especially on the GP bike, which has had some electronic fiddling to allow the bike to run into corners faster. It’s all about keeping the momentum and using the speed you are already carrying to get the most out of the bike. Basically, brake as little as you can or as little as you dare is probably a more accurate phrasing.
For a novice like myself I found it incredibly hard to judge lean angles and just how far I had left of the tyre. I soon found out when Miguel Oliviera came past me 100% faster and dropped it straight into turn one with what seemed like no brakes whatsoever. So, ok, there is more corner speed there than anything else I have ridden. Gotcha.
The GP bike had a noticeable gains over both the Production and Rookie bikes: power was up considerably, feel and handling were velvety and responsive, and nothing I have piloted felt quite so reactive to rider input as this. It took a while to get used to being able to crack open the throttle for a full bean spank fest on corner exit. This behaviour on a Fireblade would see you on your botty before turn two.
It’s ASBO loud – the noise levels from this 250cc single pot are insane. I never thought something this compact could scare the fecal matter from its home with such ease. Intimidatingly loud, burbling away in the pit box – this little bike has got a big presence.
Size Matters. I could barely get my size 11’s on the pegs and keeping my toes away from the immaculate Valencian asphalt was not easy. These bikes are designed for spritely teens with acne and Vine accounts, not ageing fatties with dodgy knees trying to get spotted by Red Bull. Yet, the bike coped with its excess baggage allowance without too much complaining. Incidentally, my bodyweight is 15kg heavier than the bike…. just think about that for a moment while I eat a pasty.
So the sun is setting and it’s been an incredible day for me, one which I will not forget in a hurry. It’s all to easy to dismiss these bikes as ‘only a 250 mate, my R1’s got 10,000bhp at the rear’, but you have to think about what they do for the sport and the answer is: everything.
This is arguably racing at its very best, which is backed up by some of the stonking battles we’ve seen this year – particularly the final race on this very track. Without these fairing bashing classes, we’d never be able to grow the talent into the superstars we see today in the premier class. And that’s just the riders. Think of the teams, the mechanics, the entire support network behind putting a rider and bike on the grid. All these guys cut their teeth here, on these bikes, in this class. I have been blessed with the fortune to see and experience this first hand and it’s changed my blinkered perception, for which I’m full of humble gratitude. If only they could make one for a lanky, ham-fisted goon, I’d buy one. Oh, and make it 95% cheaper. Viva Moto3.
Check out the onboard footage here: