Iker Lecuona To Make MotoGP Debut At Valencia Race

Iker Lecuona's MotoGP debut has been moved forward a few days. The Spaniard will replace Miguel Oliveira in the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP team at Valencia, Lecuona's home Grand Prix.

Lecuona is set to join the Tech3 team for 2020, replacing the departing Hafizh Syahrin, and would have been riding the KTM RC16 at the official test on Tuesday and Wednesday anyway. With Oliveira choosing to have surgery on the shoulder he damaged in the crash with Johann Zarco at Silverstone, it made sense to put Lecuona on the bike a few days earlier.

Lecuona's early promotion opens up a gap in the American Racing Team in Moto2. The team have decided to replace Lecuona at Valencia with Sean Kelly, an American currently racing in the MotoAmerica series. Kelly has experience of Valencia, having raced in the Red Bull Rookies Cup for three seasons.

Kelly will make it an all-American Moto2 team in Valencia, joining American Racing Team regular Joe Roberts aboard the KTM Moto2 machine.

The press releases from the Tech3 team and from Team Hammer appear below:

Lecuona will replace Oliveira in Valencia

Iker Lecuona is set to give his premier class debut during the final round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship in one weeks’ time at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana, replacing Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese talent is forced to sit out the 19th Grand Prix of the season following a successful surgery on the ligaments of his right shoulder last weekend and is already on his road to recovery in order to be fully fit for the 2020 campaign.

Just a fortnight ago, Red Bull KTM Tech3 together with KTM announced, that Lecuona will line up next to Oliveira in the French squad for 2020, yet thanks to the open-minded Eitan Butbul, team owner of American Racing team in the Moto2 class, the 19-year-old will have the chance to try the KTM RC16 for the first time before the end of the 2019 season on his home track. Following three full years in the Moto2 World Championship, where Lecuona secured two podiums, the talented Spaniard is now eager to graduate to the MotoGP category.


American Sean Dylan Kelly is set to make his Moto2 World Championship debut at the 2019 season finale in Valencia, Spain, on November 15-17.

Team Hammer has granted the 17-year-old rising star -- who is currently in the midst of a two-year (2019-2020) contract to race in MotoAmerica -- permission to compete that weekend with American Racing Team KTM. He'll ride a Triumph-powered KTM Moto2 racebike in place of Spaniard Iker Lecuona, who is racing in MotoGP at Valencia prior to moving up to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP squad in 2020.

"First of all, this is the start of a dream for me. The next week and a half is something my family, the circle around me, and I have long hoped for," said Kelly, known as SDK in the MotoAmerica paddock. "I'm super excited. We've come a long way and honestly I'm still letting the moment sink in before getting down to business."

For Kelly, the exciting opportunity marks a temporary return to the MotoGP paddock and a fitting way to celebrate his breakout rookie season in the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing series.

Armed with an M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R600 in 2019, Kelly finished this year's MotoAmerica Supersport Championship ranked fourth in points. The Hollywood, Florida resident did so on the strength of seven podium finishes, including a thrilling double-victory weekend at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

Prior to the start of the MotoAmerica season, Kelly played a starring role in the 78th Daytona 200 in his Team Hammer debut, where he became the youngest pole winner in the prestigious event's nearly eight-decade history and backed that achievement up with a runner-up result in the arduous race.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole career and I have a good idea of what I am getting into," said Kelly. "Last year about this time, I was able to test a Moto2 bike so I've done quite a bit of 'studying' for my next opportunity and I think I am prepared. Going from a single bike test to a World Championship Moto2 race is a big deal. There's no pressure on me, I am just going to learn and enjoy the competition and do my best. I'm really grateful to Eitan with American Racing Team KTM for believing in me, to give me this chance. Also, thanks to John and Chris Ulrich of Team Hammer for not just having me race on their team, but for also helping me along the path."

Kelly came to Team Hammer fresh off of three seasons as a full-time participant in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, where he showed steady, incremental progress each year. That improvement culminated in a final Rookies Cup campaign in which he ranked inside the championship top-10 after tallying up seven top-10 race results.

Kelly first attracted global attention as a 13-year-old wunderkind due to his remarkable success at the 2015 KTM RC390 Cup World Finals, in which he won Race One and ended the World Finals ranked second overall.

"Team Hammer has a reputation for finding, developing, and winning with talented young American racers, then launching them on the next step in their professional careers," said Chris Ulrich, Team Hammer Vice President of Racing Operations. "We have helped Sean understand how to ride a 600, use data, and set up a motorcycle during the 2019 MotoAmerica Supersport season, his first on a 600 after competing on Moto3 bikes for three years in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. So we are happy that Sean's performance while racing for our team has earned him an opportunity to ride as a fill-in Moto2 World Championship rider at Valencia in a little more than a week. This is just the first step for SDK, and we have agreed to explore potential future opportunities with American Racing Team owner Eitan Butbul. I'm proud to be a part of it and will be in Valencia to cheer SDK on!"

"I think this is great for American racing," said MotoAmerica President and three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey. "This is a strong opportunity for SDK to ride in the Moto2 class. He is a very aggressive rider, a well-spoken young man, and has a ton of talent. He's been in our series for a year and really performed. We feel our series is starting to work well and one of our goals is to get our riders a chance in World Championships. I'm looking forward to see how well Sean Dylan does."

About Team Hammer

The 2020 season will mark Team Hammer's 40th consecutive year of operating as a professional road racing team. Racebikes built and fielded by Team Hammer have won 83 AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National races, have finished on AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National podiums 234 times and have won seven AMA Pro and MotoAmerica National Championships, as well as two FIM South American Championships (in Superbike and Supersport). The team has also won 137 endurance races overall (including seven 24-hour races) and 13 Overall WERA National Endurance Championships, and holds the U.S. record for mileage covered in a 24-hour race. The team also competed in the televised 1990s Formula USA National Championship, famously running "Methanol Monster" GSX-R1100 Superbikes fueled by methanol, and won four F-USA Championships.

About MotoAmerica

MotoAmerica is the North American road racing series created in 2014 that is home to the AMA Superbike Championship. MotoAmerica is an affiliate of KRAVE Group LLC, a partnership that includes three-time 500cc World Champion, two-time AMA Superbike Champion, and AMA Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey, ex-racer and former manager of Team Roberts Chuck Aksland, motorsports marketing executive Terry Karges, and businessman Richard Varner. For more information on MotoAmerica, visit www.MotoAmerica.com.


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With the precedent being set by the employing of Christian Ponsson at Misano last year by (I think) Avintia, why is another inexperienced rider being thrown straight into a race weekend on a MotoGP bike? Irrelevant whether Iker is riding it from the test onwards, this is a race! With no disrespect intended, Lecuona is hardly decorated in Moto2 but I guess now everyone is looking for another Quartararo, meaning a mercurial talent not necessarily shining in the mid-class. I did think there was, if not a rule, at least a criteria preventing this type of thing happening?

That said, I wish him and Kelly on Iker's bike all the best, you can't blame them for wanting to take the opportunities. 

A little harsh, I think. Ponsson had never raced a GP bike at any level. Lecuona has two podiums to his name in the intermediate class - that's more than Aleix Espargaro had at the time of his graduation to MotoGP.

Iker is the real deal and KTM is smart to advance him. He is a raw talent only in his 3rd year of roadracing. He runs over a second faster than his teammate, Joe Roberts. Roberts has made a little progress in Moto2 after two sasons, but he is a total bust in my mind. He just can't find competitive speed. I expect his new teammate will suffer similarly. He would be better served to spend at least one more season racing in MotoA, since he will be graded and likely discarded after his debut. But, he might have have better relative lap times than the other recent attempts from US riders. I hope so, anyway...

"Kelly has experience of Valencia, having raced in the Red Bull Rookies Cup for three seasons."

Slight issue - the Red Bull Rookies Cup doesn't race at Valencia. I imagine the weekend will be a good experience for him all the same.

Lecuona is young, is doing well in Moto2 given he is on a non factory KTM in year that even the factory KTMs have struggled until revisions created late season speed. He is currently 11th with a podium and would be higher if not for five DNFs. Compare his results and speed with some of the other customer KTMs!

His battle with genuine talent Brad Binder at Thailand was impressive.

However my point was really not about the talent or potential of Iker (or anyone else), but about the potential Ponsson effect. Whilst I  expect Iker to be considerably quicker than him, he's still straight onto a MotoGP missile debut on a live session and Valencia is a fairly one line track. 

There is a 107% qualifying limit that sorts out who is and is not good enough to compete => end of story.  Or are we s'posed to set up some sort of review committee to inspect prospective resume's?

I thought Ponsson was treated like dog poo on MotoGP's shoe, just shameful. 

It's not that long ago that we had NSR500V's (V2), Paton's, BSL's, even early KR Proton's and the like, down 40-50hp  in the hands of privateers competing against Factory NSR/YZR500 V4's.  These were the bikes people like John McGuiness, Ant West, Sete Gibernau, Leon Haslam, Johan Stigefelt etc etc cut their teeth on. Latterly it was Ilmor, WCM, Aprilia Cube etc who's sole aim was probably to 1) finish and 2) not be lapped.  But so what, it's all part of racing, they have to start somewhere.

Many many relative unknown's had a crack on completely outclassed bikes, but it was all part of the texture of the sport and the show was richer for it. 



For him to have minimal impact on the race, Lecuona needs to qualify last, start reasonably but hold that position for the rest of the race without being lapped. Anything better than that is a bonus.
So long as Lecuona isn't more than than 3 seconds a lap slower than the winner he shouldn't be lapped.

In 2017 van der Mark filled in on a Yamaha and finished 52 seconds behind the winner, less than 2 seconds a lap slower, albeit he had done Sepang as well and was on a nice Yamaha that was a lot closer to his superbike than a MotoGP KTM is to a Moto2 one.