KTM have surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partners WP. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.
The existence of KTM's Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many. The fact that Moto2 uses a spec Honda CBR600RR engine has been a huge obstacle to manufacturers wanting to get involved in the class. Aprilia had originally planned to enter Moto2, but decided against it for this very reason.
KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.
Having a Moto2 bike would complete KTM's line up. The Austrian manufacturer appears to have accepted that to enter Moto2, they will have to build a bike to house an engine not manufactured by them.
That may change from 2019. Honda's contract to supply the spec Moto2 engine ends after the 2018 season, and Honda have indicated that they are not interested in continuing. There has been speculation as to what could replace the current Moto2 engine configuration, but anyone hoping the class could be open to competition is likely to be disappointed. The Moto2 teams are dead set against any changes to the spec engine situation, because of the incredibly low cost of competing in Moto2. It is considerably cheaper to race in Moto2 than it is in Moto3, because of the price of machinery, despite attempts at capping costs in the junior class. As one senior factory figure put it this week, the cost of competition is directly proportional to manufacturer interest in a class.
Below is the press release issued by KTM:
READY TO RACE: WP PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS & KTM SHARE MOTO2 PROJECT
WP Performance Systems will begin testing an own motorcycle this week, which together with KTM, is being developed for the Moto2 World Championship. The aim is to close the gap between activities in the Moto3 World Championship and the MotoGP class.
WP Performance Systems, like KTM, Husqvarna and Pankl belong to Cross Industries AG. The company headquarters are located in Austria’s Munderfing right next door to the KTM Factory Racing Division. In addition to the series production of suspension elements, cooling systems, frames and exhausts, motorsports is one of the most important areas of WP’s business. Last season WP, with Johann Zarco, won the Moto2 World Championship for the first time using in-house developed suspension elements. Inspired by this excellent cooperation, the group has now energized the two companies to join together to advance to the obvious next level in the shared Moto2 project.
On behalf of KTM, WP has already produced all the chassis for the Moto3 teams and for the successful Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. For KTM’s MotoGP project, WP has manufactured many of the extremely specialized components, right up to the chassis. Now the WP Racing Department is developing a complete motorcycle for the Moto2 World Championship. The first roll-out was today at the Spanish circuit at Almeria.
Stefan Pierer (CEO Cross Industries AG): “The Moto2 project has a great significance for us. Through our growth and long-term investments we are in a position to close this final gap in our activities in the sport of Grand Prix road racing. A young rider can gather his first experience in the Rookies Cup and then advance to our own in-house Moto3 team, then further, via the new Moto2 project into the MotoGP class. These are concepts that have repeatedly proved to be successful for KTM and WP in professional racing, and in the future we want to have riders for our MotoGP project that have advanced right through the entire KTM Academy.”