July 26, 2005 Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM had one of the most remarkable debuts of any racing machine in history when it gave its new KTM Grand Prix 250 its first outing in the hands of Australian rider Anthony West at the British MotoGP round. The 250 class is highly competitive with any one of a dozen riders capable of winning on any day, and a machinery war between Honda and Aprilia that keeps improving the two-stroke breed, minute-by-minute, making it nigh-on-impossible for a new bike to break into the top echelon of 250 racing. So despite KTM’s illustrious off-road racing pedigree, and a fine showing from its recently created 125 roadracer, it was not expected to be competitive for some time yet, given that it had only been ridden ONCE prior to arriving at the Grand Prix. Then West had the new motor seize up in practice at over 200km/h. And then it rained, but West won an Australian dirt track title when he was 15 years old, and is comfortable with a bike sliding. What happened?
Unfortunately for West and the fans and KTM, it wasn’t the full fairy-tale result. In the closing stages of the race he was baulked by lapped riders while contesting the lead with Frenchman Randy de Puniet, costing him vital yards on the last lap and forcing him to settle for second place, but the final result was far more than anyone could have expected. Prior to the race, the team’s ambitions were clearly stated in a press release on the Saturday evening prior to the event that the team was hoping West might score championship points. Championship points extend to 15th place - the team was hoping that Anthony might get in the top 15 finishers.
West walked away unhurt from a 200 kph crash in the Saturday morning free practice session when the engine seized in a fifth gear corner. “I was flat out in fifth gear when the motor seized and threw me over the front of the bike and I thought : ‘This is going to hurt.’, said West after practice. “But it was OK and I was able to continue on the second bike.”
“Unfortunately the crashed bike was a little faster so my qualifying time was not as quick as it could have been. But things are going well considering this is our first GP with a new bike; the set-up feels good and the team is working well. Now I’m hoping for a trouble free race and to try and score some points.”
As part of the test program for the 250 project the KTM team have been evaluating two engine configurations at Donington, with both 90 and 180 degree firing order.
The 90 degree motor currently delivers stronger acceleration and two identical motors of this specification are being prepared for next week’s German GP at the Sachsenring.
KTM’s Technical and Managing Director Harald Bartol said of the crash, “We are still in a development phase with the new KTM 250 so it is normal to have some initial problems.”
“Anthony’s crash was caused by a broken conrod, but we understand the problem and it’s all part of racing a new bike. For the German GP we will have two engines in the same configuration, with the 90 degree firing order, which will make it easier for Anthony who has done a good job so far and shown us the strong potential of the bike.”
West went on to qualify on the fifth row in the final qualifying session when he cut 0.5s from his Friday qualifying time.
Though West has been racing the Grand Prix circus for seven years, he turned 24 just nine days before his KTM debut and when rain was forecast, everyone knew the KTM would get a good first outing. While West has had appalling luck in choosing the teams he would work with, he has never been short on talent and when it rains, talent and additional skill shine through.
West won an Australian Dirt Track title at 15 and backed it up with an Australian Long Track title the same year. In 2003 he won his first Grand Prix when he took the Dutch 250 TT at Assen in the rain on a privateer machine. Compared to the speed of the factory Honda and Aprilia 250s, the privateer machines are significantly slower but when it rains, the additional horsepower is muted and throttle control, reflexes and an ability to ride a bike on the edge of control are more important rider characteristics.
West was a master of the water-logged track as he staged a breathtaking ride through the field on the waterlogged Donnington circuit on Sunday – from 15th on the grid, he got a good start and was in sixth place by the end of the first lap, passing World champion and current title leader Danny pedrosa on the third lap and settling into a three way contest for second place with Frenchman Randy de Puniet and fellow Australian Casey Stoner by the fourth lap.
The runaway leader of the race was Japanese wet weather specialist Hiroshi Aoyama until half race distance, but when Aoyama crashed, “Ant” suddenly found himself in a three way battle for the win. All three riders had near misses as the slippery surface and rain streamlets attempted to catch them out, with de Puniet looking the most likely to crash but eventually taking his first win of the season.
In a dramatic final two laps, West fought out a tough duel against De Puniet who won the race by just 1.2 seconds with Stoner in third place.
The result was the perfect debut for the new KTM 250 GP bike developed in Austria by the legendary two-stroke engineer Harald Bartol and his team. Second place on the podium for West came just over an hour after Julian Simon had won the 125cc British GP, also on a KTM.
After the event, West was understandably pleased: “I’ve waited so long to race the Red Bull KTM and today made the wait worthwhile, the bike is very good and will only get better from here. The track was unbelievably slippery and at the end of every lap I just thought : “That’s a relief, I’ve finished another lap.” I was just hoping to get some points today so second place is a big bonus for both me and the KTM team. The KTM chassis is so predictable, with the handling and on the brakes, and this was a big help in these conditions. And I like riding in the rain, the bike slides around a lot which is like dirt track and motocross where you learn throttle control. A couple of times I thought about slowing down to make sure I finished but decided to keep racing with De Puniet and Casey.”
Bartol has been involved with the design of many famous machines, but even one of his stature found the passion of the moment: “That was an unbelievable race and perfect result by Anthony. I knew in these very wet conditions that Anthony would be up the front so I was just hoping that the bike had no problems. This result is a reward for all the hard work by everyone in the Red Bull KTM team and a big motivation for the future. It is the best thing that could have happened.”
250 FRR TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
Engine Type: twin cylinder, 2-stroke
Bore x Stroke (mm): 54 / 54.5 mm
Performance: approx. 110 HP / 13,000 rpm
Torque: 62 Nm / 12,200 rpm
Compression ratio: 9:1
Transmission: 6 gears
Carburetor: 2 x Keihin 39
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Lubrication: Mixture lubrication
Frame: aluminium twin spar frame
Suspension front/rear: Öhlins
Brake front/rear: Brembo Steeldisc
Rims front/rear: Marchesini
Fuel capacity: approx. 23 Liters