After four years of developing the RC16 in MotoGP, Pol Espargaró will not be part of the 2021 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team. Espargaró will be replaced by Miguel Oliveira for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship Series. Oliveira is currently on the Red Bull KTM Tech3 satellite team. Oliveira will be teamed with 2020 rookie Brad Binder on the factory team. With Oliveira moving up, current Ducati Team factory rider Danilo Petrucci is taking the Tech3 slot in 2021, riding with current rookie Iker Lecuona.
Oliveira and Binder have a rich history as Red Bull KTM teammates. They were paired together in 2015 on the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3, and 2017 and 2018 in Moto2. The two riders have shared a GP podium six times in their careers.
“I’m really happy about this opportunity that KTM have given me for the next two years,” Oliveira said. “I feel that they trust me to show my value as a rider in this project. Since day one, I have given my best to the bike and believed in its potential to achieve good results, and this is what we want to deliver in the near future. I think we are in the right place to do it, and for me to develop as a rider. It’s a great, great opportunity. We still have to focus on 2020, but I feel grateful for this great challenge.”
This ramps up the rumors that Espargaró is headed to Repsol Honda Team to replace current Moto2 World Champion Alex Márquez. Due to the delayed start of the MotoGP schedule, Márquez has not lined up for a race in the MotoGP class.
“It gives me great pleasure to stick these four hungry guys together for our MotoGP program,” KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer said. “Brad and Miguel have a productive working relationship and have shown the talent and the desire to win races through all stages of Grand Prix. We believe they have the determination necessary to push our MotoGP project forward.”
“The same goes for Red Bull KTM Tech3, where we’re happy to bring Danilo into the family,” Beirer continued. “His experience counts for a lot, but we’re also banking on a rider that is committed and with the right attitude. We believe he still has something to show in MotoGP. On one side, we are investing in MotoGP front-runners of the future, but they could easily become stars already in 2021, and that would be exciting to see. We have two set-ups, but really it is one big team with all four athletes on the same bikes and with the same possibilities.”
Of the four riders, Petrucci is the senior competitor of the quartet at 29 years old. Oliveira is 25, Binder is 24, and Lecuona is 20. Petrucci is the only rider to have won a MotoGP race, though Binder has 15 GP wins in the support classes, all on KTMs.
Red Bull KTM Race Manager Mike Leitner added, “We have two very talented riders in Red Bull KTM Factory Racing for 2021, and we’ve seen in both Moto2 and Moto3 what they are able to do. It’s great to be able to bring both of them through the ranks into MotoGP. Miguel has already made positive first steps in the category and performed so well at Red Bull Ring last year. He was unlucky with the crash at Silverstone because he suffered with his shoulder for the rest of the season. We expect him to have a good championship this year and be even more ready to change set-ups for 2021.”
“For Brad,” Leitner observed, “we know his skills and potential as a rider. Of course, he is the rookie, but we’ll bring him up to speed in 2020 and help him to learn the category to be stronger for 2021. Right now, we’re looking forward to racing in 2020 and have to thank everyone that managed to make a race calendar happen this summer. We are very confident with our current rider line-up. As we said, Brad will learn, and Pol has a great chance to get some decent results. We cannot wait.”
With the acquisition of Petrucci to replace Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Principal Herve Poncharal is optimistic. “We will have the pleasure to welcome Mr. Danilo Petrucci with us from 2021. Danilo is a man I respect a lot. He is a normal guy who always say hello to everyone, who has a lot of charisma and a great sense of humor. On top of that, and maybe even more important, he is also a team player and a MotoGP winner. There are four factory Red Bull KTM riders on the grid with the same support, the same equipment, and this shows us the support that KTM is giving to the team.”
Photography by Philip Platzer, Polarity Photo, et al