Mika Kallio is to be KTM's test rider to help with the development of their MotoGP bike. The 32-year-old Finnish rider is to make a return to the Austrian manufacturer and work to get the KTM RC16 ready for its debut season in MotoGP in 2017.
Kallio has a long association with the Austrian marque. He rode for them for four seasons both in 125s and 250s, finishing as runner up twice in the junior class, most controversially in 2005, when he lost out to Tom Luthi by five points after his erstwhile KTM teammate Gabor Talmacsi stole the win from him at Qatar. When KTM decided to pull out of Grand Prix racing at the end of the 2008 season, out of frustration at the decision to abandon two-stroke racing in the intermediate class, Kallio was forced to leave, moving up to MotoGP with Pramac Ducati.
After two years in Ducati, Kallio returned to Moto2, where he was once again championship runner up in 2014. He has not had the same level of success since leaving the Marc VDS team, despite starting the 2015 season on essentially the same bike. Approaching the age of 33, and with only mediocre results this season, Kallio may have decided he has a better future testing with KTM. From KTM's perspective, Kallio already has two years in MotoGP with Pramac Ducati, and worked as a test rider for the Suter MotoGP project which ran under the CRT rules in 2012.
Kallio is the latest in a list of names to come up for the position. Nicky Hayden had long been linked to the ride, but the American was keen to stay racing, and so joined the Ten Kate Honda team in World Superbikes for 2016. KTM had also been in talks with the AB Motor Racing team since Assen, with a view to taking Karel Abraham as a test rider, but Abraham was also keen to keep racing, and has a serious ankle injury that is still recovering.
Kallio will be joined by Alex Hofmann, former MotoGP rider and for the past few years, test rider for Aprilia in both MotoGP and World Superbikes. Hofmann joined KTM earlier this year, and will be taking the first ride on the RC16, giving it its first shakedown. Kallio will be charged with trying to push the limits of the bike, to help prepare the RC16 for its race debut in 2017.
Below is the press release from KTM on the signing:
MIKA KALLIO TO BE KTM MOTOGP TEST RIDER
Finland’s Mika Kallio returns to KTM next season as test rider for the MotoGP project.
KTM made the decision about one year ago to enter competition in the premier class of MotoGP as of the 2017 season. The company was then faced with the task of making all the preparations for a successful entry into this class of motorsport in a relatively short time. By securing the services of Mika Kallio, staffing for the test team is now completed. A new Motorsport Center, currently under construction will also be ready in mid-2016.
Pit Beirer (Motorsport Director): “In addition to the technical and infrastructure challenges, the topic of personnel was no less important in the first stage of the project. By hiring Mika Kallio we now have our core team for MotoGP and are able to take the next steps. In accordance with our planning, the motor has been running on the test benches since the beginning of July. The next step will be the first roll out with Alex Hofmann, former Grand Prix rider and now commentator for MotoGP on Eurosport.”
Mike Leitner (MotoGP Consultant): “We opted for Mika Kallio because of his successful past association with KTM and not least because of his experience and success in all classes. It is not only with us that he has proved his ability as an excellent racer and test rider. He wants, and above all can push himself to the limit and this can be decisive in the development of the KTM RC16.”
Mika Kallio: „KTM has played an important role in my career. When I first heard about their MotoGP 2017 plan, I realised that it might be a perfect chance for me to return to the Orange family. I am excited about our co-operation, since I respect KTM’s know-how and way of working. I am eager to use my vast riding experience and analytic skills to do an excellent job as their test rider. My heart is set on this project and even though I will miss racing next year, I believe the best times are still ahead.“
Mika Kallio joined KTM in the MotoGP World Championship in 2003 and went on to win two vice world championship titles in the 125cc class in 2005 and 2006 before he moved up to the 250cc class in 2007, also with KTM. After taking third in the world championship in 2008, he advanced to MotoGP in 2009, where he was named “Rookie of the Year” in his first season of competition. Following a protracted shoulder injury he returned to the new four-stroke Moto2 class, where he has been successfully competing since 2011 to become a vice world champion again in 2014.