KTM Sportcar GmbH has established itself as a renowned manufacturer of high-performance racing machinery and super sportscars thanks to global success in prestigious motorsport championships as the Fanatec GT2 European Series or class wins in famous 24-hour races. KTM hit the headlines last year with the KTM X-BOW GT-XR1, an uncompromising road-legal super sportscar based on a pedigree racing car. With ground-breaking models such as the KTM X-BOW GTX and GT2 also being developed by the Austrian manufacturer, it’s worth taking a look behind the scenes at KTM to find out how these special cars are made.
“We take the opposite approach to other automotive manufacturers,” says Christian Sams, Head of Research and Development for Mechanical Components. “We develop and build our sportscars first and foremost for victory on the race track, before adapting them for use on the road.” The KTM X-BOW GT-XR is a prime example of KTM’s development strategy, combining outstanding performance with engineering excellence.
1 Fuel consumption combined (WLTP): 9.1 l/100 km, CO₂ emissions combined (WLTP): 214 g/km, emissions classification: EURO 6D
The Research and Development (R&D) department at KTM Sportcar GmbH is the beating heart of the company’s innovative developments, including the components tested in the tough conditions of motorsport like the ultra-light carbon monocoque or the removable sports steering wheel with integrated LED display. “Ready to Race” is the philosophy for KTM’s unconventional approach far away from the industry standards. The pair in charge of KTM’s R&D, Christian Sams and Alexander Rothböck, prioritise streamlined processes and direct communication channels in order to effectively and purposefully develop radical high-performance vehicles. Both experts have a wealth of experience at KTM and played key roles in the development of the KTM X-BOW GT-XR.
High pace of development
“Maintaining a small, dynamic and highly motivated team is the most essential component here,” says Christian Sams, Head of Development of Mechanical Components. “We work with short communication channels and manage to develop innovative cars with our resources extremely effectively.” Sams also underlines how important motivation is in the team of nine young development engineers, as well as the opportunity to shape the entire development process. “Everyone in the team is proud of what we have achieved and look forward to testing the cars – or going on a business trip with them.”
“This is the only way to develop innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time – with three models emerging in just four years,” adds Alexander Rothböck, Head of Development for Electronic Components and Software. “Our collaboration methods are dynamic and simple. If we have an idea, we sit down straight away and work on them. That's why we can bring developments from motorsport to the road relatively quickly.”
Rethinking the development process
KTM X-BOW models are renowned for their radical designs and technical innovations. “We make a conscious effort to do things differently here,” says Sams. “We draw our inspiration from our passion for cars, our enthusiasm for motorsport and the challenge of pushing boundaries. This was how the idea came about to develop the jet fighter canopy using carbon, which is unparalleled in a road car in this form and design. These kinds of ideas are what drive us.”
Another important element is the long-standing partnership with Reiter Engineering in the motorsport sector and the design agency KISKA, who take the same approach and work closely with the development engineers. “They are very important partners for us. They understand the technical context and homologation requirements and know precisely what we are looking for,” explains Rothböck. “At the same time, KISKA, for example, constantly surprise us with their radical designs that are the perfect match to our philosophy. The high-strength yet delicate lever for the canopy on the KTM X-BOW GT-XR with its edgy but organic 3D structure is a prime example”, says Christian Sams. AVL Racetech also carried out important development work in the area of engine management, as did Continental in the control of the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and the electronic stability program (ESP). "These components have to be very finely tuned to our vehicles so that the driving experience is overwhelming in the end."
When developing a new part, the overall benefit and the design are number-one priorities. The subsequent concept phase is when the technical concepts are developed. The resulting proof of concept is a key milestone and aimed at demonstrating the viability of the concept. “Once that step is complete, it’s time to work on the details and produce the final component,” says Sams. “There are components from suppliers that also have to be checked and approved. For our current models we have processed a total of around 6,000 parts.”
A thousand more ideas
When Sams and Rothböck discuss new ideas and upcoming KTM vehicles, their eyes light up. “When it comes to innovation, we never run out of ideas,” says Rothböck. “There’s no doubt that we will continue to do things differently and take inspiration from racing for our innovations to create unique vehicles. Our goal for KTM is to remain a pioneering force in sportscars with our special solutions. And we still have plenty of innovations in the pipeline.”