Mike Leitner, the man who was brought in to lead KTM’s MotoGP project from the very beginning, is to be moved aside by the Austrian factory.
KTM announced that the engineer and former HRC crew chief – he was crew chief to Dani Pedrosa for most of the Spaniard’s career – is to be moved into a consultancy role.
Although the KTM’s press release does not give an explict reason for the change, beyond a desire to “restructure the KTM Factory Racing hierarchy”, the move reflects a feeling that KTM’s progress toward its objective of winning a MotoGP title has stalled.
While KTM made good progress in 2019, and won its first races in 2020, 2021 saw the Austrian factory take a step backward. Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira still won races, but they struggled to make it into the top ten just as often.
Leitner is to make way for Pramac Ducati team manager Francesco Guidotti, as has been widely reported in the Italian media.
Guidotti was previously a part of KTM’s effort in the 250cc GP class, the precursor to Moto2, and has been successful at the helm of Pramac, the Ducati satellite team regularly winning races and feeding a string of riders into the factory team.
The poaching of Guidotti from Pramac fits into a long history of KTM poaching top talent from other factories and teams (a practice in which they are not by any means unique).
Previously, WP Suspension, KTM’s own brand of suspension, poached senior Öhlins engineer Peter Bergvall, they took Jun Miyazaki from Honda, where he had helped design HRC’s first seamless gearbox, and most recently, they took Fabio Sterlacchini, one of Ducati Corse’s most senior engineers.
Respected journalist Mat Oxley recently wrote a blog on KTM’s history of hiring outside talent into the team.
Guidotti will be charged with getting KTM’s MotoGP title challenge back on track. They are not short of talent – if anything, they have too much rather than too little talent, and not enough seats to place it all.
Guidotti will have to take that talent and make sure that they are given the tools they need to fight for a championship.
Photo: © 2021 Philip Platzer / KTM – All Rights Reserved