It has been a big weekend of news for KTM at Jerez. First, there was Pol Espargaro extending his contract. Then the factory KTM team announced they had signed Johann Zarco. And now, the first seat at the KTM Tech3 team has been filled, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to MotoGP for 2019.
The Portuguese rider had been widely expected to make the move. Oliveira has progressed all the way through the KTM Red Bull project, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now up to MotoGP. He has been a consistent challenger in both Moto3 and Moto2, and has led KTM's charge in the Moto2 class, winning three races on the bike last year and finishing on the podium for the past two races.
Who the second rider at Tech3 will be is yet to be determined. Bradley Smith is determined to earn a seat back at Tech3, but will need to have a very strong season if he is to earn a place in the team. Oliveira's Moto2 teammate Brad Binder is another option, but he is yet to make a decision on his future, and he has been outperformed by Oliveira so far. But current Tech3 rider Hafizh Syahrin is probably the favorite to keep the ride, the Malaysian rider enjoying strong support from the Sepang International Circuit.
The press release from KTM appears below:
Miguel Oliveira signs for 2019 MotoGP chance with KTM Tech3
Miguel Oliveira will be the first Grand Prix star to come through the entire Red Bull KTM MotoGP system after inking a contract to represent the brand in the premier class for the 2019 season. The Portuguese will ride for the Tech3 team after enjoying success in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, Moto3 and is currently fighting for spoils in the Moto2 division.
Miguel Oliveira: “It is very early in the season but I am really happy that KTM have seen enough from this year and the last to trust me and believe I deserve this opportunity in MotoGP. I’m really thankful for that. I’ve always dreamed of MotoGP. I had it as a goal and to be able to achieve that is something so positive. We still have a long Moto2 season ahead and the fact that this is already done allows me to relax and really focus on my riding. I have been through all the steps that Red Bull and KTM have together since the Rookies Cup; I believe I’m the first. I think that shows other riders can trust in KTM and their project. I think I have the skills and the will to be able to perform well on a MotoGP bike.”
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsports Director): “This is an emotional step for us because it proves all what we have said about building a structure in this paddock and being able to come from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, go through the classes with us and end up in a MotoGP team. Together with Aki Ajo we created the Moto2 project to be the platform that develops riders for MotoGP and I have to thank Aki for this partnership because he is doing a great job with the riders; if they come out of his ‘school’ then they are ready for MotoGP and I’m happy we can give a chance to Miguel. At the same time I’m also pleased that he can trust us as the right partner to try and be a successful MotoGP rider. We already have a great line-up of talent and there is still one spot open. It feels great to know we can have Herve (Poncharal), Aki and Mike Leitner around the table to make our strategy in this paddock. Miguel has his goals for race wins, podiums and the title in Moto2 this year and he has our full support for that and then his MotoGP career will start in Valencia.”
23 year old Miguel Oliveira joined the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team in 2015 and clinched six wins and nine podium finishes. He immediately graduated to Moto2 and in 2017 again grasped nine trophies with three victories. He already has two rostrum appearances in 2018 on the KTM Moto2 machine in the intermediate category. Oliveira confirmed his MotoGP contract after the first day of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez.