The pieces are coming together for next year’s rider lineup in the MotoGP Championship. First, it was Valentino Rossi signing a two-year contract extension with Yamaha Racing, and now KTM has signed Bradley Smith to its factory team for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The news itself isn’t surprising, as Smith was on virtually everyone’s short-list for the Austrian outfit, though the timing comes as a surprise so early in the season.
The announcement today is surely the result of KTM wanting to get ahead of the musical chairs game that is unfolding in the GP paddock for next season, and it benefits Smith as well, as he can focus on his racing season from the start of the season.
The pairing is a strong one, as Bradley Smith has been looking for a factory contract, as the young British rider has steadily increased his pace while in the Yamaha Monster Tech 3 garage.
The KTM RC16 looks to be a potent package, which should save Smith from the fate that has cursed the Aprilia Racing riders. This is important because Smith seemingly had not future with a Yamaha backed team, after this season.
This is because Yamaha’s path into the factory team is unfortunately a bit clogged, with both Rossi and Lorenzo expected to stay there for the next two years.
Tech 3 is also facing pressure, as it plays as the Yamaha “junior” team, with Hervé Poncharal and his crew often called upon to groom Yamaha’s next top riders within their ranks.
To that end, Tech 3 likely needs to make room for an upcoming Moto2 rider or two next season, with Alex Rins likely to be on that roster.
Yamaha’s loss is KTM’s gain, as the Austrians will get the benefit of both a young and talented rider, and also a rider known for his keen understanding of motorcycle dynamics. In that way, Smith was an ideal choice, being both young and fast, as well as a strong development rider.
Now we wait to see who will be Smith’s teammate at KTM next season. Let the 2016 Silly Season roll on.