It had been widely rumored, and long expected, but KTM has finally confirmed that Dani Pedrosa will be a test rider for the Austrian factory for the next two seasons. Pedrosa will take on the role alongside current test rider Mika Kallio.
Rumors that Pedrosa would take on a testing role with KTM have been circulating for some time, ever since it became clear that Pedrosa would not be part of the Repsol Honda team.
The Spaniard had been linked to the Petronas Yamaha seat as well, but in the end, he felt that some of the joy had gone out of racing, and he didn’t feel he had the intensity to keep racing beyond the end of this year.
That KTM should sign Pedrosa as a test rider is not that surprising. Mike Leitner, KTM’s MotoGP team manager, was Pedrosa’s crew chief with Repsol Honda up until 2014, after which Leitner left to work on KTM’s MotoGP project. Leitner knows Pedrosa extremely well, and has spoken highly of his sensitivity to the bike.
This familiarity with Pedrosa was one reason Leitner signed Mika Kallio as a test rider. In an interview with MotoMatters earlier this year, Leitner explained that smaller riders, like Pedrosa and Kallio, have to have a better feeling for the bike, as they cannot compensate with their body weight for what the bike is doing.
Kallio “was already riding the bikes with a lot of technique,” Leitner told me. “So most of these [smaller] riders have a very good feeling for a bike, a good understanding.” Leitner and KTM will hope that Pedrosa’s sensitivity to changes will help them push the project forward.
Of course, that is also a risk. Pedrosa has struggled this year to get heat into the Michelin tires, which has prevented him from being competitive at most tracks. KTM may have a little more say in which tires they request from Michelin, but it makes most sense that Pedrosa should try to develop the bike for the tires Michelin will be bringing to the race.
The role as test rider will almost certainly not include any wildcard appearances. At the Red Bull Ring this year, KTM’s head of motorsports Pit Beirer told reporters that having Mika Kallio do so many wildcards had not had the positive effect they had hoped.
“This was also not very positive for the project, because when the test team starts to think too much like a race team and they want to race, you find out at the test they just want to get ready for next weekend,” Beirer said.
“Like, the most stupid parts, that also need to be tested, they don’t do them because they focus on the race and then you start to drift away from the job of the test team. All these things we have to learn, being new in this class, so we will not see – maybe only one or no wild-cards from our test team in the future. That’s already clear.”
The move marks a remarkable departure for Dani Pedrosa, however. The Spaniard has been with Honda for his entire career, even before he entered Grand Prix racing. Moving to KTM means he will lose a role as brand ambassador for Honda, but by going to KTM, he will remain with Red Bull, who have also backed him throughout his career.