The latest Moto GP factory to showcase their 2021 look has been KTM. The Austrian manufacturer embarks on their fifth season in the premier class of motorcycle racing with… the same livery as they have been running for the past four years. It’s certainly pretty – bold orange cut through with striking black, and the red bull sponsor logos splashed prominently across the faring – but unique… not so much.
In a move that none of the other teams seems to be following, the manufacturer’s satellite team – Tech 3 Racing – also launched today, and oh wow was it a shock. Tech 3 Racing’s title sponsor of late has been Red Bull Organics and cola. This meant that last year’s livery followed an orange and blue colour scheme, arguably the best on the grid. For 2021, this sponsor pulled out, so the team have had to fall back to the full support of KTM branding. What this means for the livery is well… lots of orange. The bike is orange, and the racing suit is orange… surprisingly the crew’s polo shirt uniforms are black, but still… there is a lot of orange. You can see the orange-ness in all their glory from the photographs. What’s more interesting is the team line-ups.
Starting with the factory team. For as long as they have been in the premier class, KTM’s top man was Pol Espargaro. He stuck with the factory while working out how to make the RC16 a race-winning bike, and results speak for themselves. In 2020 the team achieved six podiums, with five of them by Espargaro (all third-place finishes). After his best season in MotoGP, Espargaro, moved onto pastures new, taking the HRC factory ride alongside Marc Marquez. This left KTM needing a new rider to fill Pol’s seat.
2020 Rookie of the year stays with KTM
Last year’s Rookie of the Year winner Brad Binder stays with the team for his second season in the Moto GP. Binder stormed his way to a famous win at the Brno circuit and broke lots of firsts by doing so. Binder gave the Austrian team their first-ever race win in the premier class. Winning the Rookie of the Year title too, he is a popular figure within the team, and with the departure of KTM’s hero Pol Espargaro, he could potentially be seen as the team’s ‘premier rider.’ Binder, a graduate of the full KTM project riding in all three categories, Moto 3, Moto 2 and now Moto GP, all in orange.
“Increased pressure for sure brings more motivation to the race team because all the KTM people working in this racing business are ‘built’ for pressure. This is the DNA of our sport – or for sport in general – and we’ll take this as a positive thing. For 2021 we are on the timescale. We had ideas and we had to find a good balance between what we can achieve now and between five days of testing in Doha before the season starts because we have to homologate the engine spec and the aerodynamic package there. We have the things we want for ’21 but of course people in the company are already working on stuff for the ’22 season. The plan we had for the winter tests; these parts or units are ready but what we can finally bring into the 2021 season will be decided after the five days at the Doha test. Both of our riders will get all they need to do their best in 2021.”Mike Leitner, Race Manager, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing to motogp.com
Joining him will be Miguel Oliveira – and he’s certainly no slouch. Oliveira has moved up from KTM’s satellite team to take Espargaro’s vacated seat, and already a popular figure within KTM. Oliveira took two stunning victories for Tech 3 last year – one a scintillating last lap, final corner overtake, the other a commanding victory from pole. His were also the first race wins for the satellite team, and as he moves into the factory team, he will surely want to prove himself a worthy successor.
The future looks bright for the factory team, but what about Tech 3?
Tech 3 have definitely settled into KTM well. It was a shock switch, ditching Yamaha and heading to the unproven KTM, but that gamble has certainly paid off. Despite Red Bull dropping sponsorship, they will certainly be looking bright. Seriously, I can’t get over that livery, but talent-wise too, they’ve got a lot to look forward to. Iker Lecuona, another of last year’s rookies, will want to take everything he’s learned and make some real progress in the championship standings. Lecuona struggled in the early part of the season last year – presumably due to the lockdowns that every country has endured – but towards the end of the season, he began to show real promise, not to mention the speed he was famed for in Moto2. He’s the youngest on the grid, but he’s certainly not naïve. I expect to see regular top-six finishes for the young Spaniard.
Rounding out the KTM Tech 3 rider line-up is Danilo Petrucci, last year a factory Ducati rider. Petrucci is an incredible talent. He has three race wins to his name and deserved his place in the Ducati factory team, but we do get the feeling he didn’t live up to his potential for the Italian firm. A hostile atmosphere is no way to extract the best from your rider, and I expect to see him thrive in the friendly and outgoing KTM Tech 3 team. Petrucci has a wealth of knowledge about motorcycle racing, having had to come the hard way to get to MotoGP. Still, his experience will be a welcome asset for Tech 3, and Ducati’s loss is certainly going to be their gain. Petrucci will no doubt be wanting to add to his wins collection, and for ‘the nicest guy in the paddock,’ I’m sure no effort will be spared to make him feel as at home as possible. Maybe less pressure from a none-factory team is the perfect move for him.
“After an incredible 2020 season which saw Tech3 KTM winning two races, we can’t wait to start 2021. It’s going to be a very special season for all of us at Tech3 KTM Factory Racing because we now know that with the KTM RC16 we have the weapon to fight for pole positions and to fight for podiums and victories. We will welcome a new rider with a lot of experience: Danilo is a super charming guy, he is so impatient, so focused and motivated to start the season with testing in Qatar. Iker remains with us. We have a lot of trust and expectations in him. He is not a rookie anymore and this is the time for him to deliver. For me as a team owner, I have to say that the first two years with KTM were like a dream. The improvements from 2019 to 2020 were unbelievable and honestly, even though I was trusting KTM to make a big step, the step they made was something I was not expecting. As I said before, to win two races already in year two is an incredible achievement. We are a happy team, everybody is very impatient to start the 2021 season but before we go to Qatar, there is a great moment for KTM and Tech3 to happen, which is this presentation. We will be wearing the full KTM factory colors, which is a great recognition for our partnership but also a lot of weight on our shoulders to keep pushing even more. We know we represent the brand and we know how important a MotoGP bike with the full factory colors is for everyone. Thanks to all those who follow and supports us.”Hervé Poncharal, Team Manager Tech3 KTM Factory Racing to Motogp.com
Coming off of their best season in the premier class and hungry for more success, could KTM be the surprise contenders in the championship this year? Of course, only time will tell, but the early signs are looking hopeful. It’s going to be an interesting season, but one thing is sure: it’s going to be easy to spot the KTM’s on track!
This article was written by the fantastic Rebekah Lee, our resident Motorsport nut and MA Creative writing graduate. She’s been fascinated by all things motorsports since childhood – follow her on Twitter at @bekahjlee
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