KTM “trusted” its MotoGP talent system “a year earlier than we wanted”

KTM’s Pit Beirer says Pol Espargaro’s factory team departure at the end of the 2020 MotoGP season forced it to promote its own talent “one year earlier than we wanted”. 

KTM “trusted” its MotoGP talent system “a year earlier than we wanted”

Espargaro joined KTM for its debut season back in 2017 and was instrumental in the development of the RC16 into a race-winning package in MotoGP. 

He signed for Honda for the 2021 season before racing got underway in 2020, with KTM motorsport boss Beirer noting the marque looked at “other big names” to replace him.

In the end, it elected to retain Brad Binder – who had yet to make his MotoGP debut in 2020 – and promote Miguel Oliveira from Tech3 for 2021, both riders having come from Red Bull Rookies Cup on KTMs through Moto3 and Moto2 with the marque into MotoGP. 

In an exclusive interview with Autosport, Beirer revealed KTM’s decision to forgo a big MotoGP name at its factory team for its own young talent came a year earlier than it had planned but is “so happy we did”.

“We had so many ups and downs together but [a moment] never arrived where they were doubting us, or we were never doubting these two boys,” Beirer said. 

“When we lost Pol we were looking at other big names, and then we said ‘You know what? We’ll stick now to our own programme’, which is Rookies Cup together, Moto3 together, Moto2 together and then that’s how you go into MotoGP with KTM. 

“I think we trusted our own system one year earlier than we wanted in the beginning, and I’m so happy we did it.”

Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Binder and Oliveira won three races for KTM in 2020, but 2021 started off in difficult fashion as the RC16 hadn’t progressed as much as its rivals’ bikes over the winter.

For the first five races Oliveira failed to make it into the top 10 in races, while Binder’s best was a fifth in Portugal from 15th on the grid. 

A new chassis brought to the Italian Grand Prix transformed KTM’s form, however, with Oliveira scoring second at Mugello, winning at Barcelona and finishing second again in Germany, while was fourth at the Sachsenring. 

Beirer praised both riders during its tough start for 2021 for not ‘going crazy’ and trusting in the factory to turn things around. 

“In these difficult days they don’t go crazy, they don’t talk immediately to another team or another manufacturer,” he added.

“They trust us. If we tell them we’re not happy and we will work on it, we believe them. 

“But they stayed calm in this moment and that helped us a lot.

“If the riders start to go crazy and nervous, for sure it makes it even more difficult. 

“I’m so happy we have these super-cool guys and we worked on different major parts on the bike, brought them as a package – I don’t know if it was one tenths, two tenths, three tenths, some kilometres of top speed, which is also quite nice. 

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“We brought that, but the riders brought more than this.

“They got a better feeling and with that they grew again, and it’s incredible what they brought to the table after we made a step.

“That shows what’s the characters of a team: only a team can win at the end, but we are nothing without fantastic riders.

“The real measure point is the rider on the race track.”

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