Mika Kallio is to be KTM’s test rider to help with the development of the company’s MotoGP bike. The 32-year-old Finnish rider is to make a return to the Austrian manufacturer and work to get the KTM RC16 ready for its debut season in MotoGP in 2017.
Kallio has a long association with the Austrian marque. He rode for them for four seasons both in 125s and 250s, finishing as runner up twice in the junior class, most controversially in 2005, when he lost out to Tom Luthi by five points after his erstwhile KTM teammate Gabor Talmasci stole the win from him at Qatar.
When KTM decided to pull out of Grand Prix racing at the end of the 2008 season, out of frustration at the decision to abandon two-stroke racing in the intermediate class, Kallio was forced to leave, moving up to MotoGP with Pramac Ducati.
After two years in Ducati, Kallio returned to Moto2, where he was once again championship runner-up in 2014. He has not had the same level of success since leaving the Marc VDS team, despite starting the 2015 season on essentially the same bike.
Approaching the age of 33, and with only mediocre results this season, Kallio may have decided he has a better future testing with KTM. From KTM’s perspective, Kallio already has two years in MotoGP with Pramac Ducati, and worked as a test rider for the Suter MotoGP project which ran under the CRT rules in 2012.
Kallio is the latest in a list of names to come up for the position. Nicky Hayden had long been linked to the ride, but the American was keen to stay racing, and so joined the Ten Kate Honda team in World Superbikes for 2016.
KTM had also been in talks with the AB Motor Racing team since Assen, with a view to taking Karel Abraham as a test rider, but Abraham was also keen to keep racing, and has a serious ankle injury that is still recovering.
Kallio will be joined by Alex Hofmann, former MotoGP rider and for the past few years, test rider for Aprilia in both MotoGP and World Superbikes.
Hofmann joined KTM earlier this year, and will be taking the first ride on the RC16, giving it its first shakedown. Kallio will be charged with trying to push the limits of the bike, to help prepare the RC16 for its race debut in 2017.
Photo: Honda Pro Racing
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.