MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
‘Factories shouldn’t have the possibility to lock young riders for five years’
Red Bull KTM’s hugely successful rider programme has got other factories worried – is that a problem or not?
The tighter and more competitive MotoGP becomes the more everything matters.
MotoGP’s current technical regulations guarantee that all the bikes have similar performance. Thus the rider becomes an ever-more important part of the equation because he or she is the surest way of making that vital difference.
So how do you find the best riders? You open your wallet, of course. But what if someone else has flashed the cash before you and locked a talented youngster into a long-term deal?
All the factories are searching for the next young genius: the next Marc Márquez, the next Fabio Quartararo, the next Pedro Acosta, so they’re signing younger and younger riders.
Leading the chase is Red Bull KTM. Its rider development programme is unmatched. The Austrian factory and its free-spending drinks sponsor bring riders as young as 12-years-old into their Red Bull Rookies Cup series and if they like their style (on and off the bike) they sign the kids on multi-year deals and nurture them through Red Bull KTM Ajo or Red Bull KTM Tech 3 in Moto3, then Aki Ajo’s team in Moto2 and finally into the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MotoGP team.
Both current Red Bull KTM MotoGP riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira have followed that same road mostly all the way through from Rookies.
While other factory bosses praise Red Bull KTM’s system, some of them think the Rookies Cup especially gives KTM an unfair advantage in building its future in MotoGP.
The case of Ajo Moto2 rider Raúl Fernández brought the argument into full focus last month. Fernández finished third in the 2016 Rookies Cup, won two races in his second Moto3 season, with Ajo’s team, and is currently fighting Ajo team-mate Remy Gardner for the Moto2 crown.
No surprise then that Yamaha was chasing the 20-year-old Spaniard, fighting to get his signature on a MotoGP contract for 2022. Fernández wanted to sign with Yamaha to ride its rookie-friendly Yamaha YZR-M1 in the factory’s MotoGP B-team, but he is still under contract to Red KTM Bull from his days in the Rookies.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.