The approaching demise of the 250cc class has claimed its first victim. With the two cylinder two stroke formula to be replaced by a 600cc four stroke class in 2011, KTM has decided to withdraw from the 250cc class from 2009.
Both KTM and Aprilia had voiced their deep opposition to the proposed rule changes, made in an effort to reduce costs in the 250 class. And now, KTM have turned their words into deeds, citing the fact that there is no future for the class as a reason to withdraw from 250s and concentrate their efforts in the 125 class, which is not expected to see major rule changes for the foreseeable future.
In the press release announcing the move, Winfried Kerschhaggl, head of KTM Racing said "We have decided for the GP 125 cc class because contrary to the 250 cc class, its existence is secured in the medium to long term." KTM's withdrawal will leave Aprilia as the only major manufacturer still active in the class, Marco Simoncelli's Gilera being basically just a rebadged Aprila RSA 250.
There may have been other motives behind KTM's withdrawal as well. 2008 was to be the year that KTM finally secured the world title they have been chasing in the series since they entered in 2005. Everything was in place: the bike had proven to be a race winner; Mika Kallio was in his second year in the class, and ready to challenge for the title; and Kallio would be assisted by Japanese veteran Hiro Aoyama, who had already shown himself capable of winning races and getting podiums, and could assist Kallio in taking points from his rivals.
But circumstances intervened. Some bad luck, an improved Aprilia and Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista pushing each other to greater heights in pursuit of the title left Kallio just short of the title. KTM's bosses had previously been heard muttering that the lack of return on investment from their 250 project, and the imminent demise of the class will have forced a decision.
KTM will now focus on the 125cc class. The team will field the tiny and talented Spanish youngster Marc Marquez alongside American rider Cameron Beaubier, a graduate of the MotoGP Academy program, who has shone in the Spanish 125 championships this year.