KTM Commits to MotoGP, Retreats From Moto2 and Moto3
KTM has announced that it will compete as a factory entity in MotoGP at least through 2025 as part of a sweeping group of changes in its approach to Grand Prix racing. Additionally, KTM will withdraw as a team and chassis manufacturer in Moto2 at the end of 2019, and there will be no KTM-branded Moto3 motorcycle next year. Instead, Husqvarna (also owned by KTM’s parent company) will compete in Moto3 on a new motorcycle in 2020, as KTM seeks to stay involved in Moto2 via its association with Aki Ajo.
Although KTM had no championships in Moto2 in its short run from 2017 to 2019, it did earn race wins with Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder aboard. KTM fared better in Moto3, scoring world championships with Sandro Cortese (2012), Maverick Viñales (2013), and Brad Binder (2016). Husqvarna previous foray in Moto3 lasted just two years—2014 and ’15—with Danny Kent earning the brand two podium finishes.
Further, Red Bull KTM and Johann Zarco will be ending their two-year partnership a season early. According to a KTM spokesman, the parting of ways was “mutually decided.” Undoubtedly, neither party could have been satisfied with Zarco’s 2019 MotoGP results. Zarco sits in P17 in the MotoGP standings, and has had just one top-ten finish—a P10 at the Catalan Grand Prix. In contrast, Zarco’s teammate and KTM mainstay Pol Espargaró is P11 in the 2019 MotoGP standings and has had five top-ten finishes, with a P6 at the French Grand Prix.
KTM was quite pointed in its announcement of the separation of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Zarco, saying “Zarco tried to adapt his riding style to the KTM RC16, and the team tried relentlessly to mold the #5 machine to the Frenchman’s wishes and requirements, while teammate Pol Espargaró made regular Q2 qualification appearances and persistently vied for top ten positions.” Zarco’s best moment with KTM was qualifying on the front row at the Czech Grand Prix.
KTM’s reorganization of its Moto2 efforts will leave Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder and Jorge Martín without a 2020 ride, at least until Aki Ajo establishes a new team and chassis. Joe Roberts and Iker Lecuona (American Racing KTM), Luka Tulovic (Kiefer Racing), Philipp Öttl and Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech3), and Xavi Cardelús, Mattia Pasini and Jake Dixon (Sama Qatar Ángel Nieto Team) will also be impacted, as their teams all run KTM chassis.
“Thanks to the great work and experience with Aki we can maintain a link to Moto2,” KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer said, “and the perhaps what is the final preparation needed for the jump to MotoGP. We feel strongly that we can have this asset even though we will vastly reduce our presence as a chassis contributor.”
“We made a proactive decision here at our home Grand Prix to renew our stay in MotoGP and commit to another five years of competition,” CEO KTM AG Stefan Pierer said on the Monday following the Austrian Grand Prix. “This is part of a wider strategic view, and we now have seven years to rise towards the top of the MotoGP class—the same period of time we needed to conquer the Dakar Rally. We know we are firmly on the way, and have made good steps in less than three years already. As part of this outlook, we want to boost Moto3. It is the foundation and the base of road racing for us. It is where we began, and where we are one of the leading brands. We see a very good opportunity here by bringing back Husqvarna with force. There will be a new bike and a special direction with this project.”