Life as a MotoGP test rider

The KTM RC16 was born on 13 August 2016. At its first introduction at the Red Bull Ring, it was Alex Hofmann who rode the bike. As a KTM test rider, he had a big part to play in launching the new MotoGP miracle machine. The former top rider (for Pramac Ducati, among others) continues to test for KTM and was one of the first to ride the 2020 version of the RC16. How does the job as a test rider actually work? Alex Hofmann tells us all about it in an interview.

MotoGP bikes are designed specifically for their riders. As a test rider, however, you have to tune the bike for someone else - how does that work?

It's not nearly as complex as it sounds. Of course every rider has their own setup, but what they all need is basic functionality. A perfectly balanced bike works for everyone - for late brakers, speed freaks, for big and small riders. The job of a test rider is to find this magic formula. The racers can then use this to adapt the bike to their own riding style.

What does a rider need to be a good test rider?

The teams need experienced hands who can ride to a very high standard. You don't need a Marc Márquez, who can ride his way around any problem with his superb talent. Above all, a test rider has to be very consistent and deliver every lap at the same level so that the data can be read and compared.

What happens on the track?

Normally you ride for four or five laps at a time. The important thing is that you have to ride consistently and, as a rider, note every important moment or every little slip carefully in order to be able to tell the engineers where they need to look more closely at the data. For that you need an extremely good sense for riding and you have to be able to describe anything. The best are test riders who can pinpoint whether a problem can be traced back to the mechanics, electronics or the tyres.

What happens after the five laps?

You go into the pits and the engineers start making changes. The test programme is worked on point by point. When it comes to the chassis, for example, the swing arm might be moved to position x or y and the test rider then goes out again. These days are scheduled from 9 am to 6 pm like a school timetable. There is a clear plan of what needs to be tested and how long the engineers have to make changes.

How long can you, as a rider, keep that level of work up for?

You get used to it and at some point you even begin to enjoy being all alone on the track. Sometimes you are on the track for days without any comparisons to other riders and this helps you to understand the bike much better. Testing has made me a better racer...albeit only after I stopped competing.

You were one of the first to ride the 2020 version of the KTM RC16. How did that feel?

I had a positive feeling from the start. The difference to the previous models is quite significant. I wanted to get on the bike, attack and got really keen about riding. This bike is just wow!

Dani Pedrosa has also tested for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing at the Red Bull Ring in 2020. We were there to see it:

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