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KTM to hold off on new parts for first races of MotoGP debut season

Bradley Smith, KTM, Qatar MotoGP

KTM is set to wait until the post-Spanish Grand Prix test at Jerez in May before evaluating any new development items on its MotoGP bike.

The Austrian manufacturer spent 2016 testing and developing its RC16, and after running as a wildcard in the season finale emerged from the winter break with so many new parts Pol Espargaro likened it to a "Christmas morning".

Among the items, it evaluated a series of frames during pre-season testing, and a different-specification engine in the final running in Qatar, but will maintain a steady package during the early rounds.

Espargaro and Smith finished 16th and 17th in the Losail season opener, and KTM heads to Termas de Rio Hondo and Austin this month before the first European race at Jerez, which will be followed by a Monday test.

"I think for the first four races we'll run what we have and try to refine that as best as possible," Smith said.

"Come the Jerez test, we'll have some new parts once Mika's [Kallio] been working with the test team."

KTM did not visit either of the next two circuits on the calendar during its 2016 testing programme, but tested at Jerez three times last year, including in November with Smith.

The Briton said much of KTM's first full weekend in MotoGP was about putting together all of the little details.

Pol Espargaro, KTM, Qatar MotoGP 2017

Espargaro finished four seconds off the final points-paying position, taken by Marc VDS Honda's Tito Rabat.

"It gives us optimism knowing that Rabat was just four seconds in front and then there were a couple of guys just in front of him," Smith said.

"That's a works Honda from a couple of years ago, so to be that close, that can be kind of our next ticket.

"Maybe not in Argentina or Austin, because we don't know the tracks, but when we come into Europe - Jerez, Le Mans - that needs to be our focus to get on the back of them, then when we are on the back then to beat them and then be forward from there.

"Then we'll see what happens by the middle of the season."

Smith believes electronics improvements to refine the KTM's engine, the only one with a screamer firing order on the grid following Honda's switch, will deliver gains on the timesheets, with or without new parts.

"Basically learning how to use the power in the right way," he said.

"For me, the biggest thing is how to put the most amount of power to the ground and go forward, rather than wheelie-ing, spinning or pumping, because that's another problem that you can have on these bikes.

"It's just finding that right balance of everything. That's something that we'll continue to try to make progress with."

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