Husqvarna To Race Rebadged KTM In Moto3 With Kent And Ajo

A day after the provisional entry lists for the Grand Prix classes were released by the FIM, and there's one change already. Today, Husqvarna announced that they would be joining the Moto3 world championship, and fielding a factory team. 

The Red Bull Husqvarna Factory Racing team will be run by Aki Ajo, and have Danny Kent as rider. Furthermore, Husqvarna will also be providing support for Niklas Ajo in the Avant Tecno team.

The announcement that Husqvarna is racing in Moto3 does not mean a brand new bike will be entered. The Husqvarna will be a rebadged KTM, run under a similar arrangement as Gilera and Derbi in the 250cc and 125cc classes, which were really just rebadged Aprilias. Danny Kent's Moto3 bike will be a factory KTM with a Husqvarna badge on the tank. That KTM would use such an arrangement is not unusual: Pierer Industries, the majority stakeholder in KTM, is also 100% owner of Husqvarna, having acquired the brand earlier this year. Husqvarna off-road bikes are currently being produced in KTM's factory in Mattighofen, Austria.

The entry of Husqvarna into Moto3 is very much a return, rather than a new entry. The Swedish brand known for its motocross and other off-road machinery raced in the 250cc class in the mid-Sixties, scoring points with Kent Andersson in 1966. That bike was a single cylinder two stroke built around a modified motocross engine. They also raced in the 500cc class, with another Swede, Bo Granath at the controls. That bike was a 500cc two-stroke twin in a Seeley frame. For a little more background on the subject, see the article on

Below is the press release from Husqvarna on their entry in Moto3:



Husqvarna Motorcycles is pleased to announce their participation in the 2014 Moto3 World Championship, which starts in Doha, Qatar on March 23. The official team will be named Red Bull Husqvarna Factory Racing and directed by team manager Aki Ajo. Official team rider will be Britain’s Danny Kent.

Under the watchful eye of experienced former racer Aki Ajo, who has enjoyed a long and successful career in motorsport racing and team management, Danny Kent will challenge for the Moto3 World Championship title. A second Husqvarna will be ridden by the promising young rider Niklas Ajo from Finland. Stepping into Grand Prix Road Racing in 2014, Husqvarna Motorcycle’s will begin an exciting new racing chapter.

The Moto3 class was introduced in 2012, replacing the 125cc two-stroke category. The class highlights up-and-coming young talent and is a proving ground for racers aiming to progress into Moto2 and eventually into the main MotoGP class. Machinery is restricted to single-cylinder 250cc four-stroke engines. The minimum total weight for motorcycle and rider is 148 kg (326 lb.). Riders in the Moto3 class cannot be older than 28 years.

Stefan Pierer, KTM AG CEO: “Running Husqvarna in the Moto3 World Championship will bring considerable interest to both the category and the brand. With its history of 110 years the Husqvarna brand is highly known throughout the world of racing. The Moto3 stage will give a further boost to grow Husqvarna stronger than ever. We’re looking forward to see great competition next year. ”

Pit Beirer, head of Husqvarna Motorsport: “After our strong commitment to offroad competition, entering the Moto3 World Championship is a new milestone in the history of Husqvarna. With the full support of Mr. Pierer and the Husqvarna Motorcycles Board of Directors, we are extremely excited about this new project. We will bring the best people and all the necessary energies together to give the project the success it deserves. Danny Kent will be our official factory rider, with Niklas Ajo our official support rider. Both hugely talented young racers, we are looking forward to the start of Husqvarna’s new journey into Grand Prix Road Racing.”

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That's kinda cool. It would of course be better if they made a new bike themselves, but having the illusion of another manufacturer is better than not having it at all.

I wonder if this is in response to Honda's move of splitting itself so it can effectively have a factory team without having to supply the same engines to all users in the class?

The importance of Moto3 to KTM's sales strategy should not be underestimated. Throughout the GFC KTM has pursued an aggressive strategy of new model releases which has seen them raise market share in the declining markets of Europe and North America. But perhaps more importantly in Asia where the release of the 125, 200 & 390 Duke line up (which are made in India in cooperation with Bajaj Auto the 3rd largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world who has a 47.96% stake in KTM) has seen large market share increases which have come at the expense of the Japanese manufacturers.

2014 will see more of the same with the new RC line up a fully faired Supersport machine with the 125, 200 & 390 engines from the Duke lineup. KTM's marketing is linking the machines with Moto3 very heavily and even had Luis Salom on hand the at the recent unveiling at the EICMA in Milan

As you can see Moto3 is very central to KTM's efforts in Asia combine race track success with local riders such as Zulfahmi Khairuddin in the world championship & Hafiq Azmi in CEV Moto3 and you have a recipe for sales. I can only imagine KTM is desperate for an Indian and or Indonesian Moto3 rider.

As important as all this is to KTM it is just as important to Honda but for very different reasons. Which will hopefully make for a very entertaining season of Moto3 in 2014.

KTM Q1 2013 growth -

Husqvarna Set for Indian Launch in 2 Years -

I know that in the past Piaggio have badge engineered Aprilia 125 cc and 250 cc motorcycles as Derbi and Gilera respectively since they all fell under the umbrella of the larger organisation which is Piaggio. What I am interested in knowing is if this strategy did any good to the building of Gilera or Derbi as a brand and was there some stirring in the road going motorcycles sale of the two brands. Husqvarna, in my opinion is not really a name that is known to many people despite it being a hallowed brand with a history of 110 years. So to badge a KTM as Husqvarna will serve whose purpose? The Swedish market?

Though the Managing Director of Bajaj is against going racing and has always said that racing is a solution to a problem that his company does not have, the time may have come for re-assessing his strategy with regard to racing. Bajaj has been slipping in India, one of the biggest markets in the world for two wheelers and has now been overtaken by Honda. If Bajaj were to make their own racers they would probably not get past the 107% rule. But Bajaj which not only manufactures KTM Duke 125, 200 and 390 could succeed from this brand image. There are enough KTM teams and branding one of them as Bajaj to me makes great sense since the Bajaj Pulsar is a motorcycle that is positioned as sports motorcycle.

If Mahindra can compete in the Moto3 and expand to supplying six more bikes apart from the two that it runs (the motorcycles are totally Suter engineered), I do not see why Bajaj cannot do the same. While Bajaj is still big in India, Mahindra's presence is minuscule. Perhaps Bajaj is missing an opportunity here. And it has more legitimate claims than Husqvarna since it shares engines with KTM (Bajaj has proper R&D) and the engines have a big input from Bajaj. More than Mahindra it is Bajaj that needs to be in the Moto3 paddock. But Rajiv Bajaj, the Managing Director still does not believe in racing and that is a huge pity.

why Ducati don't pull out of the stupid-at-present MotoGP class and throw everything at Moto3. One cylinder of the D16 with a sensible Gigi chassis could surely give KTM something to think about. The cost would be significantly lower, likelihood of a championship significantly higher, and it opens Ducati to a whole new market segment - making stylish but still cheap commuter bikes for emerging markets and old ones alike.
Meanwhile you make a marshmellow-wrapped promise (aprilia-style) to return to MotoGP in x-years (once the dumb fuel limits etc are gone).
Why on earth am I not in charge??

Badge engineering, it helped the British car manufacturers to survive for several decades! What could possibly go wrong?