The following article appeared in the November 2021 issue of Roadracing World & Motorcycle Technology magazine. To get more great content like this, subscribe HERE.
OWNERS’ TRACK INTRO:
A Special Day In Spain
By Chris Ulrich
The large group of riders gathered on pit lane at Jerez Circuit, anxiously waiting for the blue garage doors to roll up and unveil their new 2022 KTM RC 8C track bikes. When the garage doors finally opened, they revealed a fleet of 25 KTM RC 8C motorcycles, each with a custom number and all on stands and tire warmers, awaiting their new owners. The atmosphere in the pit box was electric and the excitement infectious. I snuck into the group unnoticed and claimed the only unmarked KTM RC 8C in the lot. I was happy to join the group for a day at Jerez, and tried to stay under the radar.
A full day of riding on the track was ahead, including eight 20-minute sessions, with Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio mixing with the group on and off the racetrack. The on-track activities started with a parade lap that included a group photo on the starting grid with Pedrosa and Kallio at the front, while I occupied the final grid position. There was a slight delay in resuming the riding when one of the 23 owners in attendance proposed to his girlfriend on the grid!
It was the passion pitch. Build a motorcycle that evokes passion for riding and it will sell. Adding in a once-in-a-lifetime track day experience at Jerez with KTM MotoGP test riders Pedrosa and Kallio saw the 100 units available worldwide sell out in 4 minutes and 32 seconds! The first 25 units—including the extra-cost track day—sold out 1 minute, 41 seconds after sales opened on KTM’s digital platform! And there are now over 300 people on the waiting list for the next batch. The lucky few who were able to reserve a bike paid $38,999 for the privilege. Attendees at the track day paid an extra 4,000 Euros (about $4,650 U.S.) for a race track package that included a set of wheels, stands, tire warmers, brake pads, and a KTM pit rug. Participants also paid an 890-Euro (about $1,050 U.S.) event package fee that included accommodations and meals, transport to and from the track, attending a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing test and meet and greet dinner with test riders Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio, and eight 20-minute on-track sessions and dinner with Pedrosa and Kallio the next day. KTM provided one race mechanic for each group of four riders, and WP Suspension had two technicians to assist with set-up. Fuel and tires were also included.
It was clear that this was a special experience for the riders in the group. There was the Dutch collector who bought the bike for his personal museum and showed up with a group of buddies who came to hang out and watch. And there was a Finn who owns 12 motorcycles—including a BMW-powered Suter CRT MotoGP bike and a Krämer GP-2 690. He races his GP-2 in Finland because he can ride the bike well and most of the guys in his class aren’t axe murderers. A guy from the U.K. was trading in his Panigale V4 for the RC 8C because he was sick of not being able to hang onto the bike for long.
Among the group were two Americans, who I met while getting the COVID PCR test that was required to fly back to the United States. Viet Tran and Mauricio Gomez are both from Texas and made the passion buy. Both have production middleweight motorcycles and were dissatisfied with the lack of real information and support, so they bought the RC 8C and signed up for the event. Many of the customers at the event owned 1000cc Supersport bikes, but couldn’t ride them hard for more than three laps at a time. So, they looked to the KTM RC 8C as a bike that would be more manageable on the track for their fitness and skill level.
I’ve said it before: The Middleweight Twin category is the best for most riders. The bikes have enough power to be exciting without being easy to get in trouble with, and can usually be ridden all day long without having to train like a MotoAmerica Superbike rider. That said, after riding the RC 8C for a day at Jerez, I would have liked to add 5-10 horsepower to the RC 8C and try it, even though that might mess up the rideability vibe.
Built by former KTM engineer-turned-chassis-builder Markus Krämer, the RC 8C is a proper purpose-built track weapon. From start to finish, once all the parts are collected, it takes four mechanics two work days to complete one RC 8C.
The main frame is made of chrome-moly (25CrMo4) steel tubing with an aluminum underslung swingarm. The bike is powered by an unmodified 889cc KTM LC8c Parallel Twin engine, the same engine used in the 890 Duke R. The result is a motorcycle that weighs in at a claimed 140 kilograms (309 pounds) dry and puts out 128 bhp and 73 lbs.-ft. of torque at the crankshaft. That equates to roughly 110 bhp at the rear wheel.
The RC 8C has 23.7 degrees of rake and is delivered with 28mm-offset triple clamps which give the bike 98.6mm of trail. There is enough adjustment in the front end for a rider to get lost if not careful; adjustment in the head stock allows for 1-degree of rake adjustment in 0.5-degree increments in either direction; there are two triple clamp options, with 26mm or 28mm of offset, and the rake and trail can also be affected by front or rear ride height. The wheelbase measures 1400mm (55.2 inches).
High end WP Racing suspension components add both a bling factor and performance to the RC 8C. At the front, Krämer fitted 43mm APEX PRO 7543 pressurized forks which representatives claim are one tier down from the units used in the KTM MotoGP program; the forks have compression, rebound, and pre-load adjustment. At the rear, the RC 8C uses a 46mm body, WP APEX PRO 7746 shock which reminds me of a pre-TTX Öhlins shock. Available adjustments include spring pre-load, high-speed and low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping.
Forged aluminum Dymag UP7X 17-inch racing wheels are fitted; the front is 3.5 inches wide, while the rear is 6.0. The RC 8C is delivered with Pirelli Diablo Superbike racing slicks.
Stopping the Krämer KTM is a set of Brembo Stylema calipers mated with a Brembo 19mm RCS CORSA CORTA radial master cylinder and a set of fully floating 290mm discs. KTM claims the use of the adjustable master cylinder allows a rider to tailor the bite point. I thought using a 19mm master cylinder with a set of Stylema calipers wasn’t ideal since Brembo recommends a 17mm master cylinder. I could have changed the ratio all day but chose to not mess with it, and it worked OK as is.
The bodywork is styled after the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike; the RC 8C fairing has a large ram-air intake at the center of the leading edge and carbon fiber winglets along with a downforce-producing scoop on the lower just in front of the rear wheel. That combination helps to mitigate wheelies and improve stability.
As crashing is part of the game, the RC 8C comes equipped with crash protection sliders on the front forks, frame, swingarm, and fuel tank. Mr. Krämer was especially proud of the frame sliders, which are large plastic extrusions mounted to a floating metal plate on the frame to limit damage.
Careful attention was paid to the ergonomics. CNC-machined rear-set controls are sturdy, offering 66mm total range in three steps. Pads have also been added to the swingarm behind the rear sets to limit crash damage, and many Krämer owners I have spoken to say the bike is durable when it comes to crashing.
The RC 8C comes with no rider aids, but there is an optional rain map that reduces the power in the first 15% of throttle opening. On the track it feels like the rain map cuts the power by limiting the rate of throttle opening, and the power delivery is really soft. It’s possible to easily switch on the fly between the rain and normal mapping using the left side handlebar switch, but the change will not be enabled until the throttle is closed. There are also two available engine braking settings, to match rider preference. This can also be adjusted on the fly, but like the throttle map, the change will not be enabled until the throttle is closed. A pit lane speed-limiter function was also enabled and worked as described on pit lane. The RC 8C also comes with a quick-shifter and auto-blip for clutch-less downshifts.
Krämer uses an AIM MXS 1.2 RACE dash with data logging capabilities and integrated GPS. The dash can be customized through AIM’s Race Studio. As delivered, the 5-inch dash displayed rpm, gear position, lap time, and lap time split. The logged data is streamed over the CAN line.
Rolling off the starting grid, I started to pick up the pace and move through the group. The RC 8C fit me really well; the angle and position of the handlebars were aggressive but comfortable and didn’t put undue stress on my wonky shoulders. The location of the footpegs worked well for me, putting my feet in an ideal position, and the distance from the pegs to seat was just right. There was plenty of room in the seat to move and the fuel tank cover was a nice width, allowing me to move around without being too skinny.
It took me a few laps to figure out how torquey the engine really is. Once up to speed, I could roll though most of the slower corners in third gear and the RC 8C would chug right out. The LC8c engine builds power from 5,000 rpm until the 10,500-rpm limit. And thanks to some tuning, a pipe, and a relatively light crankshaft, it rips through the rev range quickly—so quickly that I often found myself getting into the rev limiter, which slowed the lap time if I wasn’t on top of things.
The GP-style chassis really makes the RC 8C a pleasure to ride. I’ve been to Jerez about six times for press events over the years and knew using the inside curbs is an important element to turning a good lap time, but only if I could get the motorcycle to turn down that far in time. I had no trouble positioning the RC 8C where I wanted to through all phases of the corners.
I rode the first half of the day on the baseline track setting the bike is delivered with, which worked great, but I struggled to get the bike to continue to rotate around the corner as my speed increased. This was due to the rear being slightly too soft for my size and weight as the base setting on the rear suspension is set up for a rider that weighs between 165 and 187 lbs. The quick fix was to add a round of rear-spring pre-load, going from 12mm to 13mm, which gave me the support I wanted, but also put too much stress on the rear tire. So, we went back to the base setting and looked at the front of the bike.
I had noticed that the rebound was a little fast and the RC 8C had great support, so we slowed down the rebound by adding three clicks (from 16 to 13 clicks) and took out one turn of preload (from 18mm to 17mm). Those two changes helped me get the bike to finish the corner while still carrying decent corner speed. It also showed that the Krämer-built chassis responds as expected to suspension changes.
As I piled on laps, I found the RC 8C has a broad range of usability—the chassis works well at both a medium and a fast pace. But it worked really well the faster I went. The overall balance of the bike is great; it was stable on the brakes, turned in well, had good front feel at the apex, and finished the corner. It’s rare that a bike ticks all those boxes! Honestly, it reminded me of the Grand Prix racebikes I grew up riding, including the Honda RS125 and Yamaha TZ250. My only complaints came from the braking performance and gearing. I think 300mm-305mm front brake rotors would not have hurt the handling and the increased performance would have been worth the change. It could have also used slightly taller final drive gearing to maximize the bike’s potential at Jerez.
And, to answer the bike question a few people have asked, would it be competitive in Supersport? Maybe. It has the chassis performance, but I think it would need an extra 10 horsepower or so to keep up with a 600cc four-cylinder Supersport racebike.
By the end of the day, I’d done seven 20-minute sessions on a pretty warm day in the South of Spain before throwing in the towel. That’s two hours and 20 minutes on track! The RC 8C allowed me the time and bandwidth to work on my riding during the sessions so I could reach my potential on the day. It offers a balanced chassis that’s sharp, but forgiving, packaged with high-end components and a user-friendly engine. It could be the ultimate track day weapon. And it’s priced right when considering what it costs to build a front-line MotoAmerica Supersport or Stock 1000 racebike.
Back in the pits at Jerez after the end of the day, the group was tired, but everyone was buzzing and raving. The vibe carried into dinner, where one of the participants called for a toast to KTM for giving the group a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I sat with the American riders and the Finn, and they were carrying on about the day, about bikes they owned, and about plans for GP adventures. It was interesting to experience an event from the other side. And it reminded me why we all got into the sport in the first place: Because it’s fun!
As for KTM, the RC 8C and the track experience had turned skeptics into orange-bleeders within a couple laps at Jerez.
KTM hasn’t announced plans for another run of RC 8C track bikes, but if they build them, the buyers will line up.
Climb onboard for a lap around Spain’s Circuito de Jerez Circuit with Roadracing World Racing Editor Chris Ulrich at the controls of an ultra-exclusive, racetrack-only 2022 KTM RC 8C.