KTM

MotoGP Silly Season Update: KTM Confirms Line Up, Stalemate At Ducati

KTM sporting director Pit Beirer (left) and Danilo Petrucci

That Danilo Petrucci was heading to KTM was an open secret, after the Italian and his manager, Alberto Vergani, visited the Austrian factory's race department in Mattighofen. That he would not be replacing Pol Espargaro in the factory Red Bull KTM team is a huge surprise. Instead, Petrucci is to switch to the Tech3 satellite team, and take the place of Miguel Oliveira, who is to be moved up to the factory squad.

According to Italian media, the reasons Petrucci is headed to the Tech3 team are twofold: firstly, as the KTM press release makes clear, because all four KTM RC16s will be full-factory spec, and with full factory support. And secondly, because Brad Binder had a clause in his contract stating he would be in the factory team in his second year.

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Misano Private Test: Oliveira Fastest After Two Days, Aprilia And Ducati Test New Aero

It has been a busy couple of days at Misano, with the KTM and Aprilia MotoGP teams, and test teams from Suzuki and Ducati, joined by WorldSBK representatives from the KRT Kawasaki squad, and a small army of Ducati teams. The MotoGP and WorldSBK riders have been able to try out the new asphalt at Misano in the blistering heat of an Italian summer.

Miguel Oliviera is fastest after the first two days, the Red Bull Tech3 rider just a couple of tenths faster on Wednesday than Pol Espargaro had been on Tuesday. Oliveira's best time of 1'32.9 is two thirds of a second off Maverick Viñales' pole time set last September, two tenths off the outright race lap record set by Andrea Dovizioso in 2018, and 1.3 seconds slower than Jorge Lorenzo's pole record from the same year.

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MotoGP And WorldSBK Back On Track: Three Days Of Testing At Misano

World championship motorcycle racing takes another step back to the season returning at Misano. The next three days sees both MotoGP and WorldSBK teams testing at the Italian circuit, preparing for the resumption of hostilities at Jerez in July and August.

Present are the MotoGP teams of KTM and Aprilia, allowed extra testing due to their status as concessions teams. Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith are riding for Aprilia, the second test for the Italian factory. Espargaro was forced to miss the first test, unable to travel to Misano, and so waited for this test to get back on track, as he explained to Tammy Gorali in an interview a week ago. He joins Bradley Smith, promoted from test rider to permanent rider for 2020, to replace Andrea Iannone, still suspended after a positive doping test.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update: KTM's Actions Speak Louder Than Words, And Why Andrea Dovizioso Stays At Ducati

Danilo Petrucci enters Parc Ferme after winning the 2019 Mugello MotoGP race - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

Though racing has stopped, necessity is forcing teams and factories into making choices. With almost everyone in MotoGP out of contract at the end of 2020, and only a few riders already signed up, seats have to be filled for next year and beyond, racing or no racing.

After the early spate of more or less expected signings, the latest round of deals are more of a surprise. None more than the expected deal for Pol Espargaro to join Repsol Honda in 2021, displacing Alex Márquez as brother Marc's teammate before the younger Márquez has had a chance to prove his worth. That, as I wrote previously, will inevitably lead to a parting of the ways between Marc Márquez and HRC, I believe.

It has been two weeks since news of that deal emerged, and yet there is still no confirmation. Despite protestations to the opposite, the deal is very much on. But there is something of a hiccup along the way, in the form of a contractual stipulation that forbids Espargaro from discussing a deal with another factory before September 15th. No announcement will be made before then.

Actions speak louder than words

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Why Repsol Honda Signing Pol Espargaro Could Cause Marc Marquez To Leave

The rumors had been doing the rounds for some time, but last night, things came to a head. Multiple media outlets were reporting that Pol Espargaro has signed a deal to ride for Repsol Honda in 2021. The most interesting facet of this was that several outlets had independent sourcing, making this look highly credible. Information I have seen also confirms this.

Though an agreement seems to have been reached, there are still some hoops to jump through. Speaking to Spanish daily AS.com, Espargaro's manager Homer Bosch said negotiations with Honda, KTM, and Ducati were still going on. "It's not true that Pol has a verbal agreement to go and race for the Repsol Honda team next year," he told AS.

Repsol Honda team boss Alberto Puig issued a similar statement denying an agreement had been reached. "HRC is always thinking about the present and the future of its structure, from the lower categories to MotoGP. Due to the circumstances that we are in, this season is not developing through the usual channels, but that does not mean that Honda stops continuing to plan the best possible future for all their riders. We do not have any contracts signed with anyone that have not already been announced," he said.

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The MotoGP Silly Season Logjam: Dovizioso At Ducati, Rossi At Petronas, And The Youth Wave

While the motorcycle racing world awaits the return of real racing, contract time is heaving into view. Though the methods are different – Skype calls and WhatsApp messages, rather than private conversations at the backs of garages or between trucks – the objective is the same: to find the best match of bike and rider, giving the most hope of success.

Having to work remotely is the least of both managers' and teams' problems. The bigger issue is that there is next to no data to go on. Teams and factories are having to make a guess at who they think will be strong in 2021 based on who was fast in 2019, and who showed promise in the winter tests. Riders have no idea which bikes have made progress over the winter, and which have stagnated. Is it worth taking a gamble on KTM? Has the Honda gotten any easier to ride?

For the Moto2 riders in with a chance at moving up to MotoGP, they have had just a single race in 2020 to show their worth. What's more, it was very far from an ordinary race: the last-minuted decision to make it a night race instead of a day race complicated tire choice, which some got right and some got wrong. Jorge Martin was widely regarded as the hot ticket for promotion to MotoGP in 2021, yet he had a miserable race at Qatar, finishing 20th. Tetsuta Nagashima won the race, while Joe Roberts dominated practice and qualifying. Nobody was mentioning their names as possible promotion candidates in late 2019.

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KTM Press Release: Testing Starts Again At The Red Bull Ring

The KTM press office sent out the following press release after Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa had spent two days' testing at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, the first time back on track since the Qatar test in February:


KTM back on track at Red Bull Ring in private MotoGP test

Dani Pedrosa testing the KTM RC16 at the private test in Spielberg in May 2020 - Photo from KTM Press

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MotoGP Machines To Return To The Track: KTM Plan Two-Day Test At Red Bull Ring On Wednesday And Thursday

After thirteen and a half weeks of silence, MotoGP bikes are to roar into life once again in their natural habitat. The KTM RC16 machines are to spend two days testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, on May 27th and 28th. The last time MotoGP bikes were on track was at Qatar, on February 24th.

Factory rider Pol Espargaro will be joined at the Red Bull Ring by test rider Dani Pedrosa, where they will continue work on the RC16. Although development work on the bike stopped for over a month between mid-March and the middle of April, due to restrictions put in place in Austria to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, KTM are keen to continue testing the 2020 engine and the new chassis which made its debut in November last year at the Valencia and Jerez tests.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why inline-four MotoGP bikes handle better than V4 MotoGP bikes

V4 MotoGP bikes make more power, inline-fours handle better. That’s why Johann Zarco, Jorge Lorenzo and others struggle when they switch from inline-fours to V4s

Speak to most MotoGP engineers and they will tell you that the two most important words in race-bike engineering are balance and compromise.

Pretty much whatever you do to improve one area of performance impairs another: you make the bike turn quicker and it becomes less stable, you increase peak power and you lose midrange and so on.

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