Francesco Guidotti On Moving From Pramac To KTM: "When You Jump Into A Factory Team, The Only Goal Is To Win"

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.

For Guidotti, this move would be a kind of return to KTM. The team manager started his career in the MotoGP paddock working for Aprilia in 1993 and managed the WSBK team in 2004-05, before coming back to the world championship with the manufacturer to manage their last seasons in the 250cc class. He then managed the 125cc KTM team for four seasons until the manufacturer decided to quit at the end of 2009. Guidotti moved back to the WSBK paddock to manage the Aprilia team again for that historic championship win with Max Biaggi in 2010. When the offer came to come back to the MotoGP paddock and manage the Pramac satellite team, Guidotti jumped at the opportunity. Now the Italian team manager is taking his next step.

More opportunity, more influence

“It is the same for everybody in this environment,” says Guidotti on comparing his move, from satellite to factory team, to how riders feel when they make a similar move. “The factory status is something to achieve. It's an ambition for team members, riders, managers and to be honest I was not thinking about it, but once they offered me this opportunity it was difficult to say no. There is a lot of ambition in the factory teams, you have to be ambitious, and those who do this job in racing have to be, otherwise choosing this job is a mistake,” he says laughing and adds, “It's the same for everybody, for riders mainly, but also for us.”

“Everybody knows that once you jump into a factory team the only target and only goal is to win, there is no question,” Guidotti says about the pressure of managing a factory team. “Satellite teams have a much wider range [of results] to be happy with, and to say it was a good season or a good race. When I started in Pramac we were more than happy to be in the top ten. Year by year we grew and we got a much better package and conditions. At first we were happy to be top 10, then top five, then we achieved several podiums per year, and the final goal was to win again. For a factory team this is something they cannot even consider, the only target is to win. Next year this will not be the case, nor our target. It's only been a few years that KTM has been participating in MotoGP, we are aware of the level, but we need to be on top anyway to show signs of growth during the year. Obviously the pressure is much higher but the tools we have available are greater. It must be balanced.”

Guidotti sees some similarities between the Ducati and KTM and the tools available to them, because of the ability to respond quickly to the needs of the riders and teams in the factory.

“This is a characteristic of the European brands,” he says. “We know that the Japanese manufacturers are slower to react, maybe for logistics reasons or maybe because of their mentality. They plan at the beginning of the year and they have to follow it strictly, as the history of motorsports shows. Italians, Europeans in general are more flexible, more reactive. Sometimes it's not all.. It can be a limit sometimes because when you take a decision too quickly, sometimes it's not the best way to solve the problem. But overall it's for sure a bit better to have this flexibility.”

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Thanks for the article David.  I think this is a great move by KTM.  I don't know the inner workings, only what I've seen from afar but one thing that has always struck me about KTM has been what seems the "harsh" management style.  Knowing Austrians a bit (the Mrs) it is sometimes just the delivery, not the intent behind, but in a complex project like a MotoGP team maybe these things matter.

The whole Zarco debacle was complicated, the dumpster fire leading to his sacking was not pretty, although what they did in terms of the rider himself was actually quite honourable once the dust had settled.  In spite of JZ throwing them a total curveball and derailing all their plans for the year, they released him from his contract and even allowed him to ride other brands.  The Honda ride he got late in the season got him the foot in the door at Ducati, which has certainly prolonged his career a while even if the hoped-for progression to race wins and championship challenge has not eventuated.  But you wonder whether the whole thing could have been defused earlier in the piece with some skilled diplomacy, perhaps JZ may have still been on board with the much improved bike in 2020 and done something special?

Likewise sticking in my mind was the treatment of the engineer of their Moto2 bike in the final season (was it 2019?).  They absolutely placed the blame for the chassis problems squarely on the shoulders of one guy, totally threw him under the bus.  I found it breathtakingly poor form.  That sort of thing does not promote a good working team environment.

I have had the impression in the last two years that KTM has almost put too much effort into fixing the bike, an endless stream of new parts and perhaps not the clarity of thought required to sift through and pick the bits worth sticking with and developing those.  Easy to say from my armchair of course, but maybe something in it.

It's funny, a guy at the top who is not a rider, nor an engineer you would think should not be so pivotal, but we've seen Suzuki flounder without the skills of Brivio to bring them all together.  Think orchestra conductor - to the outside observer he a tosser in a silly suit waving a stick at a bunch of people who are the best musicians in their field and know perfectly well what they are playing.  But the conductor actually *plays* the musicians like an instrument him/her self.  Such a complex collection of parts can not work at its best without a control mechanism.

I'm really interested to see whether FG can make a difference and strike a chord between Austrian directness, Italian warmth, KTM technical capability, Red Bull money, and factory team expectations.  Roll on 2022!  (and go Remy!)

At the very best music schools, only the star students are considered for conductor training and positions, like race control but, y'know, actually good and widely respected for their management of a huge and exceptionally fluid domain... xD

... it's the conductor who ends up the superstar, not the orchestra members (by and large).

I was intrigued when travelling the underground in Vienna that there were huge posters advertising an upcoming concert "by Fred Nerk" (insert conductor name, no idea who he was).  In the big photo and the big print wasn't the orchestra, only the conductor.  He was obviously very well known and his leading of the orchestra was clearly the drawcard, not the orchestra itself.  Firstly, as a largely uncultured Aussie I found it cool that the great unwashed of the Vienna underground would be cultured enough to know an orchestra conductor, but then also was struck by the fame and attention of the conductor's status itself.  Absolutely like seeing the big poster of Freddie Mercury or whatever, the conductor seemingly the equivalent of the lead singer in a rock band.

Anyhow, I just see it as an interersting parallel with the team manager.  He is required to lead, unite, co-ordinate and inspire the individual talents of the team.  A really good one will extract more than the sum of the parts, and create something really extraordinary (ref Suzuki 2020).... or is it just that when something really great happens, we are preconditioned to award the credit to the management rather than the workers (ref Suzuki 2021, Mir comfortably outscoring his 2020 total and only having one single fewer win and podium... in spite of having no team manager).

I've just contradicted my own argument... oh well.