It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha.
But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week).
That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria.
In my article analyzing the Jerez private tests, which took an in-depth look at the times set by the WorldSBK bikes and the MotoGP bikes, I set out several reasons why I thought Jonathan Rea would not be moving to MotoGP, despite obviously being fast enough.
Though Rea has good reasons of his own to prefer to stay in WorldSBK, a good portion of the blame lies with MotoGP team managers, I argued.
That argument was based in part on a press conference held during the last round of the season at Valencia. In that press conference, the heads of racing of the six manufacturers in MotoGP gave their view of the season.
During that press conference, On Track Off Road’s Adam Wheeler asked Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis, Ducati’s Paolo Ciabatti, and KTM’s Pit Beirer whether they regarded WorldSBK as a viable talent pool, or whether they were looking more towards Moto2 and Moto3 as the place to find new riders.
After months of speculation of an impending rider change at KTM, the Austrian factory has issued a press release clarifying its 2018 line up in MotoGP.
The KTM factory team will continue with both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as their contracted race riders, while Mika Kallio remains contracted as a test rider.
The move will be welcomed inside the team, restoring stability and removing the uncertainty which had surrounded Bradley Smith and his future as a factory rider.
The Englishman had struggled badly to be competitive in the first part of the season, while his teammate Espargaro seemed to go from strength to strength.
As expected, we didn’t have long to wait to find where Pol Espargaro would be working next season, as KTM has announced that it has signed a two-year contract with the Spanish rider, for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP seasons.
Espargaro’s departure from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 was announced earlier this morning, along with the news that his direct contract with Yamaha Racing would not be renewed.
The change from Yamaha to KTM won’t be a dramatic shift though, as Pol Espargaro will be joined by his current teammate, Bradley Smith, at the Austrian brand’s factory team as well.
KTM hopes to capitalize on both riders’ feedback on developing the KTM RC16 race bike, as well as their promising pace for strong results.
Were Honda exceeding the Moto3 rev limit in 2015? This is the accusation made by KTM Sports Director Pit Beirer in a story on the German-language website Speedweek.
Beirer alleges that KTM came across the issue when talking to riders who switched from Honda to KTM this year, who were complaining of how abruptly the KTM hit the rev limiter.
Beirer further claims that KTM were able to look at the data of the Honda Moto3 machine held by a former Honda mechanic. In that data, he alleges, the Honda ran flat out to the 13,500 RPM rev limit, then gradually tailed off to 13,600 RPM.
These claims, if they are true, would be a massive breach of the Moto3 regulations. Though Beirer does not mention Danny Kent by name, the insinuation was that this may have been a factor in a Moto3 title that ended up being decided by just six points.
We spoke to Peter Bom, crew chief to Danny Kent both this year and last, during his successful Moto3 championship campaign, and a key factor in the Englishman’s title. Bom denied the allegations, and explained that the claims can only be based on Beirer misinterpreting the facts.
The difference between the Honda and KTM Moto3 rev limiter strategies was marked, Honda having invested a large amount of time and money in optimizing both gear change and rev limiter strategies, making the bike as smooth as possible and as easy to ride.
This is our third story about the KTM RC16, in I don’t know how many weeks, but the Austrian brand just dropped off a bunch of high-resolution images of its MotoGP race bike in the company’s media gallery, and we feel obligated to share them with you because they’re just that good.
While the MotoGP paddock is in Valencia right now testing machines, electronics, and riders for the 2016 season, KTM is busy looking farther down the road with their plans to join the premier class in 2017.
The KTM factory team is being cagey about how many resources it is devoting to the MotoGP project, though we do know that KTM is building a dedicated facility for the MotoGP project in Mattighofen and hiring top-level talent right and left for the effort.
So far KTM’s hard work has brought out a machine that visually looks like a lot like the Honda RC213V, and smart speculation pegs the power plant between the fairings as being very similar as well: a 90° V4 with a “screamer” firing order.
KTM is of course using a steel trellis frame design and WP suspension, and numerous more subtle changes abound. Reportedly KTM is keen to hire MotoGP suspension gurus to help add to the knowledge already found at WP – could we see a new brand come into MotoGP to rival standard-bearer Öhlins?
While we ponder all that, there are 22 ultra high-resolution photos for you to ogle over, after the jump.
The RC16 draws some serious inspiration from the Honda RC213V, with its whale-shark air intake design, underbraced swingarm, 90° V4 engine with a “screamer” piston firing order. There are of course obvious differences, with the KTM RC16 having steel trellis frame, WP suspension pieces, and 17″ wheels.
Alex Hofmann took the reigns of the KTM RC16 at its three-day shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring, but soon development duties will be handed over to former-MotoGP rider Mika Kallio, with a second test that is scheduled for this year.
Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.
Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon.
The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening.
Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.
The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams that have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight.
To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics.
That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. “This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox,” Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. “You can’t get the best out of it without one.”
If Jack Miller is parachuted into Aspar, the second seat in the team is up for grabs. Though Dorna are keen to have an American in MotoGP, it is widely believed that Nicky Hayden’s days are numbered.
Despite his denials, there are question marks over Hayden’s wrist, and he has not been as competitive on the Open Honda as he had hoped. Hayden was at the last round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago, where he was seen talking to a lot of teams.
There is a lot of speculation Hayden could end up on an Aprilia in World Superbikes next season, the American already having visited the factory’s Noale HQ in 2013, before he left Ducati to sign for Aspar.
Could Hayden take the second Aprilia seat in MotoGP? This seems extremely unlikely. The factory already has an experienced development rider in Alvaro Bautista, and is really looking for someone faster and younger to lead the challenge.
After a last-minute appointment to replace the injured Marc Coma in KTM’s factory rally team for the 2013 Dakar Rally, American Kurt Caselli impressed many with his stellar rookie performance on the South American course. Taking two stage wins, Caselli will join Marc Coma and Ruben Faria on KTM’s factory-backed rally team, which will go by the “Red Bull KTM Factory Racing” name.
With Chilean rider Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez also getting full-factory equipment, noticeably absent from KTM’s announcement is five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres, who is leaving the KTM squad “to move on and face new challenges.”
Winning the most recent edition of The Dakar in a comfortable fashion with his support rider, Faria, finishing second, Despres’s probable move to another team is a huge shock to the sport, and could make KTM’s dominance in motorcycle rally racing questionable for the future.
At the Sachsenring, after the introduction of KTM’s Moto3 GPR production racer, we spent five minutes with KTM’s Head of Motorsports Pit Beirer. We spoke to him about a number of subjects, including the evolution of the factory’s Moto3 chassis, the company’s cooperation with Kalex, and whether two-strokes would be better than four-strokes for racing.