MotoGP

April Fools: Dani Pedrosa Switching to Moto3 with KTM for 2016

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The cause of Dani Pedrosa’s shock announcement that he will be withdrawing from racing temporarily to seek treatment for arm pump has finally been unearthed.

We have learned that in addition to seeking treatment for the medical condition, Pedrosa is headed to Austria, where he is to test KTM’s Moto3 machine ahead of a shock return to the junior class in 2016, in pursuit of a fourth world championship.

Pedrosa believes racing the lighter Moto3 bikes will allow him to avoid arm pump, and thus prolong his Grand Prix career.

Alongside racing for KTM in Moto3 in 2016, Pedrosa will help develop the Austrian manufacturer’s MotoGP prototype, ahead of its debut in 2017.

We uncovered the story while waiting to follow Pedrosa to the VUMC hospital in Amsterdam. A source in Qatar had revealed that the Spaniard would be flying to Holland for treatment at the hospital, with a reputation for dealing with sports injuries.

Pedrosa was seen arriving at Schiphol airport, where he was greeted by a woman wearing an orange uniform. Recognizing the woman as Avril Fisch, long-standing group leader of KTM’s engine development department, we approached close enough to be within earshot, without being seen.

When Pedrosa came through the doors of the arrival’s hall, Frau Fisch greeted the Spaniard with the words, “So, Dani, ready for your challenge in Moto3 next year?” At that point, we confronted Fisch and Pedrosa, where they confessed their plans.

The entire scheme has come about as a result of Honda’s victory in Moto3 last year. KTM is keen to get revenge, and know that they must engage the services of a top rider to ensure that they can beat Honda in the junior class.

The plot had been hatched after the first few races of 2014, once it became clear that the Honda NSF250RW was a vastly more powerful machine than KTM’s RC250.

The NSF250RW was Honda’s response to KTM’s original Moto3 bike, built because the Japanese manufacturer felt that KTM had violated the spirit of the Moto3 regulations in 2013.

Honda wanted to demonstrate that they, too, were prepared to completely disregard the spirit of the rules, and put their vast engineering might to work to build a bike that would be unbeatable. That bike won the 2014 Moto3 title with Alex Márquez.

Knowing that they would never have the resources of Honda, KTM approached the problem from the other end of the equation.

Instead of trying to out-engineer Honda, they set about trying to find the best possible rider they could get to ride the bike. They settled on the idea of signing one of the four so-called ‘Aliens’ of MotoGP, and putting them on the bike.

KTM first approached Valentino Rossi. The Austrian marque already has links with the Italian, as they supply bikes to Rossi’s Sky VR46 Moto3 team. Sensing that his chances of securing a tenth MotoGP title were closer than ever before, Rossi turned KTM down.

Instead, KTM opened negotiations with Dani Pedrosa and his then crew chief, Mike Leitner. Though Pedrosa was reluctant at first, KTM won him over with a range of inducements.

First and foremost, he would be reunited with his long-time crew chief Leitner. Leitner had left the Repsol Honda team to lead development of KTM’s MotoGP project, ahead of the bike’s debut in 2017.

Leitner and Pedrosa concocted rumors of a less-than-amicable split, to divert media interest away from any thoughts of Pedrosa joining the Austrian engineer at KTM. Pedrosa was also offered a role in the development of the RC16 MotoGP prototype, leading the direction of the project.

In the end, Pedrosa was persuaded by an exceptionally generous financial offer. To demonstrate just how serious they are with this project, Pedrosa was offered 1% of the shares in KTM, as well as 1% of shares in Red Bull, who will be backing the Moto3 team.

Furthermore, Red Bull will be backing the factory KTM team once they enter MotoGP. Some sources suggest that KTM have already contacted Casey Stoner about a ride in MotoGP. Stoner has strong ties to Red Bull, and was the first rider to win a Grand Prix for KTM, taking victory in the 125cc class at Malaysia in 2004.

The most shocking part of the entire scheme is that Pedrosa will be leaving Honda with the Japanese factory’s blessing. Pedrosa’s departure from Repsol Honda allows HRC to move Marc Márquez’ brother Alex up into the Repsol squad.

Having the Márquez brothers in the same team is a marketing dream for Honda, Repsol, Estrella Galicia, and all of the team’s sponsors. The outing which Alex was given on board the Repsol Honda RC213V at the Valencia test in November last year was a trial run of the project.

We has seen mock ups of a 2016 team presentation provisionally entitled “Márquez Bros – A Day at the Races.”

Allowing Pedrosa to leave to go race in Moto3 is a sign of Honda’s confidence in their youngest signing, Fabio Quartararo. Already labeled ‘the Márquez beater’, HRC believes that the French youngster will easily beat Pedrosa, once the Spanish veteran climbs aboard the KTM Moto3 machine.

Photo: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

David Emmett

One of MotoGP's most respected journalists, David Emmett is the proprietor of the esteemed MotoMatters. We are very grateful to republish David's work here on A&R...though dread the day we ever again get in a car with him.

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