KTM is to enter the Moto2 class. The Ajo team is to expand its current Moto2 operation to two riders, with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira taking the place of the departing Johann Zarco. The team is also to switch from Kalex to KTM, as part of KTM's project to provide a career path for young riders from the FIM CEV Moto3 championship through all three Grand Prix classes to MotoGP.
The names of the riders involved should come as no surprise. Brad Binder is a race or two away at most from becoming the 2016 Moto3 world champion, and Miguel Oliveira came very close to winning the Moto3 title in 2015, as Binder's teammate in the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Both riders are highly rated both by KTM and by team boss Aki Ajo.
The KTM chassis project is interesting. The KTM Moto2 bike comprises a steel trellis frame and aluminum swingarm housing a spec Moto2 Honda CBR600RR engine, using WP suspension. The use of a steel trellis frame is consistent with KTM's design philosophy in Moto3 and now also MotoGP.
There was an issue with WP suspension, however. As WP is a subsidiary company of KTM, KTM came to a gentlemen's agreement with Kalex on the matter of suspension technicians. KTM will only use suspension technicians who have not previously worked with Kalex in Moto2, to avoid any appearance of using Kalex data to help set up the KTM.
The entry of KTM into Moto2 does not mean that the Austrian manufacturer is a candidate to replace Honda when the engine contract comes up for renewal at the end of 2018. At the presentation of the KTM MotoGP bike at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer made it clear that they had no interest in become spec engine supplier for Moto2.
Below is the press release from the KTM Ajo team:
Red Bull KTM Ajo to make exciting move up to Moto2 in 2017
The successful Moto3 structure will participate in next season’s Moto2 World Championship with new KTM bike and riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.
Red Bull KTM Ajo will increase their presence at Grand Prix level in 2017 with a new team in Moto2 and a new KTM bike. KTM will thus become the first manufacturer to have a presence in all three classes: Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. Alongside them as they take this important step, Red Bull KTM Ajo will run riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira in the project.
Red Bull, KTM and Ajo Motorsport join forces once again in 2017, building on their success in Moto3 with an expansion to the intermediate class. In their five years of collaboration to date, the team have taken a World Championship (2012), two runner-up spots (2014 and 2015) and a current lead of 106 points in the overall standings in Moto3. Red Bull KTM Ajo will also be the only team using the new KTM Moto2 bike, which debuts in the category. For Ajo Motorsport, this will be their third season in Moto2; last year they achieved the title, while this year they lead the standings with 3 points in the overall standings.
The rider lineup will consist of familiar faces, who have come up through the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team. Brad Binder, currently the Moto3 leader with 106 points, stays with the team and accompanies them on their exciting new venture. The South African, who came into the team last year, has a total of 5 wins and 11 podiums in five full seasons at Grand Prix level.
Miguel Oliveira returns to the structure with which he was proclaimed World Championship runner-up in 2015. The Portuguese, who this year debuted in Moto2, has 6 wins and 7 podiums to his name, all in Moto3.
This new project, which has already enjoyed positive tests over the past year, will begin in earnest from November 16th, when the riders will get onboard the new KTM for the first time.
Pit Beirer - KTM Motorsport Director
"We've now enjoyed five years of successful collaboration with Aki Ajo in Moto3. We are very happy that he and our main sponsor Red Bull are offering us the perfect structure to move into Moto2 so we can have a presence in all classes of Grand Prix Racing in 2017. We see the intermediate class mainly as a platform for keeping riders in the KTM Family, which begins with the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and will run right through to MotoGP. The WP motorsports department has been fully integrated into KTM, and just as it is in Moto3 and MotoGP, the new Moto2 bike is being developed and built completely in-house. Brad Binder has had a very successful season this year and hopefully he will wrap up the championship. Now we're happy that he can step up into the new Moto2 team. Also, we're very pleased to welcome Miguel Oliveira back into the Orange Family after one year in Moto2."
Aki Ajo - Team Manager
"Firstly, I am very happy to continue the cooperation with Red Bull and KTM and make this move together in Moto2. Now we will all be much closer to each other, working together in two classes and with the whole Red Bull KTM family in all three classes, which is something historic. We are very grateful to be part of this great project with KTM and Red Bull. It is also nice to start out with a pair of riders who we already know well. Brad [Binder] has spent two seasons with us and Miguel [Oliveira] had an incredible season last year in the team. Both have won races with us, so I cannot be more expectant than this: We have two riders who we know, who are young, eager, and with a positive attitude for this project."
Brad Binder - Rider
"First of all I want to say I am very grateful for this new opportunity given to me by the team in Moto2. I want to thank Aki Ajo and all the people and partners who have been helping so I could take this step up. After how this year has been, there is nothing that could excite me more than staying at Red Bull KTM Ajo and competing in Moto2. I really like this team; I like the respect between all the members and I know that the decisions they make are always the best to keep the team and riders on top.
I know it will be very difficult, but I'm very motivated for this and I am already looking forward to it. It will be nice to start in a new class, with everything new and a lot to learn. My goal is to go out each day and give 110% to learn as quickly as possible. I am very happy to be back sharing a garage with Miguel [Oliveira], I learned a lot from him in 2015 and sure we will push each other; we will have fun. Everyone knows that if Red Bull KTM Ajo make a motorcycle, it will be good."
Miguel Oliveira - Rider
"I'm very happy to be returning to the Red Bull KTM Ajo family, and to a very professional team that brought me a lot of success. In fact, my most successful season to date came with them. I'm very happy and grateful to Aki [Ajo] and KTM for choosing me and for trusting in me to start this ambitious project with the KTM Moto2. I believe a lot in this new project, that I will have a very strong team alongside me, and that we will be able to get the best results possible. I will give my all in this new venture. I will be back sharing a garage with Brad [Binder], a very good person and rider, and I am sure that we will work very well together to gather the best data possible and take the KTM to the top."