GasGas, the iconic Spanish motorcycle brand bought by the Pierer Mobility Group and KTM, is to enter MotoGP with the Tech3 team. From 2023, Tech3 will become the GasGas Factory Racing Team, with Pol Espargaro confirmed as one of their riders. The team will compete with factory-backed KTM RC16s branded under the GasGas name.
While the most interesting parts of the KTM launch had to do with the personnel changes, and the shift of focus from the purely technical to the human (for a full review, see here), factory riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira were still fascinating on the weakness of the 2021 KTM RC16 and what they wanted fixing for 2022.
What the riders were missing above all was some consistency, Miguel Oliveira said. "Through different key moments of the championship I wasn't able to finish the race. Two big examples; Austria race 2 and Misano race 2 where the result could have been quite good."
KTM paid for that lack of consistency down the stretch, leaving too many points on the table and making a championship campaign tough. "The other thing is the pure consistency of the results, finishing the races pays off a lot at the end of the championship. And of course that's of course the main reason why I think consistency must be improved," Oliveira pointed out.
Not all team launches are the same. They vary in style, substance, length, medium. There are live presentations, long prerecorded presentations, and short videos. Their length or content inevitably have no correlation to their information density. When you start, you never know what you are going to get.
The KTM MotoGP launch kicked off with a 4:35 video presentation which was all style and no substance, four minutes of spectacular images, dramatic electronic music, and empty cliches about racing. After the launch, however, things got good. Really good. Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira gave a glimpse of where they felt the KTM RC16 was lacking in 2021, and what needed to improve. Interesting, but not earth-shattering.
It was a surprise, but in retrospect it is quite clear why KTM made one of the biggest moves on team personnel by recruiting Pramac team manager Francesco Guidotti.
When the 2021 season ended, we were only expecting to get one announcement about team personnel before the start of 2022: who would be the team manager of Suzuki. Rider announcements would come later, after the team launches and the preseason tests started, as all six manufacturers face the challenge of trying to sign riders with the grid almost completely out of contract at the end of the season.
So news of Francesco Guidotti leaving the Pramac Ducati team after 10 years as team manager for KTM came as a big surprise. First announced by Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport’s Paolo Ianieri, then confirmed by KTM after announcing the change of role for Mike Leitner, who started and led the MotoGP project with the Austrian manufacturer. The move came as a surprise also for Pramac team owner Paolo Campinoti, with some reports suggesting the Italian took the departure of the man who helped him bring the Pramac team to its current level in the world championship very hard.
There are a lot of elements to racing a motorcycle, and as the racing in MotoGP gets closer, every detail counts. When you are chasing thousandths of a second instead of tenths, then even the smallest details matter.
Paul Trevathan, experienced MotoGP crew chief with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, understands this all too well. After switching from motocross, Trevathan took some of the skills he learned in the dirt to help MotoGP riders go faster. With success: he helped Pol Espargaro develop the KTM RC16 to the point where Espargaro racked up six podiums, including five in 2020. With Miguel Oliveira taking Espargaro's place in 2021, Trevathan and Oliveira teamed up for a victory and two more podiums.
At Valencia, I sat down with Trevathan to dig into the nitty gritty of bike set up, in terms of position on the bike, and how that has changed over the years. We talked how handlebar positions have shifted, how riding styles affect peg, lever, and seat positions, and the process of adapting a rider to a bike. Trevathan talks about how he has adapted to work with Miguel Oliveira, a very different personality to his previous rider, Pol Espargaro. And he discusses how aerodynamics and ride-height devices have changed MotoGP, and the effect they have for a crew chief, and on rider safety.
There was some consternation in Austria in August when KTM rolled out a wheel cover for the rear wheel of the KTM RC4 on the Red Bull KTM Ajo bikes of Pedro Acosta and Jaume Masia. Despite the strict technical rules in Moto3, the specter of aerodynamics has reared its ugly head.
Naturally, this advance could not go unanswered by KTM's only technical rival in Moto3. At Aragon, the Hondas of the Leopard squad – the most technically advanced of the Honda Moto3 teams – also sprouted a closed wheel cover, almost identical in design to that of the KTM.
Even for a team manager of Aki Ajo’s standing, 2021 has been quite the year. The Finn has resided over one of the most successful seasons ever for his squad as his riders Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez contest the Moto2 World Championship, while Pedro Acosta comfortably leads the Moto3 standings.
The success of Ajo’s team came into focus at the recent Austrian Grand Prix, where Fernandez scored the 100th victory for Ajo Motorsport, quite an achievement for a squad that made its debut with Mika Kallio all the way back in 2001. Incredibly, his riders have won 14 of the 24 races in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes this year.
But more than results, the Finn and his slick Red Bull KTM Ajo structure play a key role in developing and educating young talent for the Austrian factory. Take a look at the current MotoGP grid and Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder, Jorge Martin and, to a lesser extent, Iker Lecuona have all passed through his garage – that’s 31% of the current MotoGP grid.
In his own words, Ajo sees his job as “50% is to achieve results and 50% to educate and develop riders for the future, for MotoGP.” That is just one of many topics covered in this interview, held in June before the summer break. Across 20 minutes Ajo also shared his thoughts on maintaining team harmony when both his riders are fighting for a title, working with the bright talents of Fernandez and Acosta and how to fix the current problem that is Moto3.
Q: What has been the secret to your team’s success in 2021?
Press releases and photos from KTM after their first communal test with the other MotoGP teams:
KTM MotoGP Test Spielberg – Great to arrive back home