KTM To Enter MotoGP In 2017 - And Is That Bad News For World Superbikes?

Yet another manufacturer is to enter MotoGP, it was announced yesterday. KTM is to join Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and, most probably, Aprilia in MotoGP, with KTM moving up to the premier class in 2017, a year after the new regulations take effect and Michelin takes over as single tire supplier.

The news was announced by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, in an exclusive interview with the German-language website Speedweek. In that interview, Pierer set out the approach KTM will take to MotoGP, which will be a departure from the more traditional route of the other manufacturers in the class. The idea is not to enter as a factory team, but to build a bike and make it available to customer teams, much as they currently do in Moto3. 

That bike will be a 1000cc V4, housed in a tubular steel trellis frame. The bike will have suspension from KTM subsidiary WP, as supplied with the Moto3 machines. Design work has already started on the V4 engine, and it is due to be tested on the dyno for the first time in May 2015. The complete bike will take to the track at the end of 2015, with 2016 being used to complete development of the bike, ready for the 2017 season. Pierer told Speedweek that wildcard appearances in the second half of 2016 are a definite possibility. The bike will be available to interested teams at a price of around 1 million euros, Pierer said, as that is the price at which Dorna has been trying to get the manufacturers to supply MotoGP bikes.

This would be KTM's second foray into MotoGP. The first attempt was an unmitigated failure, when the Austrian company built a V4 machine for Kenny Roberts' Team KR in 2005. That engine was known for being too aggressive, and suffering badly with underdeveloped electronics. Since then, Pierer emphasized, KTM's engineers had learned a lot about rideability and smoother power delivery. Furthermore, with all MotoGP entries to use spec software from 2016, the issue of software development had also been removed from the equation. The engine for KTM's RC16 (as the MotoGP bike is to be known) is being designed by Kurt Trieb, the engineer who developed the Moto3 powerplant which is dominating that championship.

The interview with Stefan Pierer contains a few aspects which are worthy of note. The first is the refusal to enter as a full factory team, as the other manufacturers have done. This is reminiscent of BMW's strategy, of supporting private teams but not taking part directly. That strategy has been extremely successful for BMW, the German manufacturer able to send out press releases boasting of the success of BMW privateers, without having to take responsibility for their failures. By concentrating on motorcycle design and production, KTM can keep their costs down, while still receiving both the R&D and marketing benefits of participating in MotoGP.

The more interesting aspect of the announcement is the way in which development is to be subsidized. The KTM RC16 is not only to be sold to MotoGP teams, but a cheaper version is also to be sold as a glorified track bike to private individuals. 'Cheaper' is a relative term here: where the full MotoGP version will have a price tag of a million euros, the retail bike will cost in the region of 150,000 to 200,000 euros. It will not be available as a street legal version, as the restrictions imposed on street bikes make it impractical to produce such a high-performance machine. The combined problems of producing a bike which complies with Euro 4 emissions standards and in sufficient quantities to homologate the bike for World Superbikes make that an impractical project, Pierer told Speedweek. It was better to aim at wealthy, dedicated individuals looking for an exclusive high-performance bike. Pierer estimated they should be able to sell at least 100 units of such a machine, which would represent a large proportion of any MotoGP development budget.

One of the reasons given by Pierer for going down the track-only route for the RC16 does not bode well at all for the World Superbike series. The discussions about safety have taken on ridiculous proportions in some EU countries, Pierer told Speedweek, especially after a streak of good weather had produced a string of motorcycle fatalities. There is a lot of pressure on bike manufacturers, and discussions are going on at the EU in Brussels about the possibility of imposing performance restrictions. There have even been calls from some quarters to ban so-called superbikes, Pierer said. KTM saw it as their responsibility to keep motorcycle performance within strict limits, he added. 'Anything with over 200 horsepower has no place on public roads,' Pierer told Speedweek.

Leaving aside the absurdity of the argument - it is virtually impossible to extract maximum performance from any sporting motorcycle on a public road; most fatal accidents occur at speeds a very long way below the maximum of the bike involved; the majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by other vehicles - Pierer's statements point to a significant threat to WSBK. Superbikes have become ever more extreme over the past twenty years, a factor which has played a major role in the decline of their popularity. The original Ducati 916 produced 114 bhp in 1994. This rose to 122 bhp with the 996, and 123bhp with the 998, which was sold until 2002. From 2003, the 999 produced 150bhp, which was then replaced by the 1098. The 2009 Ducati 1098R produced 180 bhp, and the current top-of-the-range Ducati Panigale 1199R is quoted as producing 195bhp. In the space of twenty years, power outputs have risen by over 70%. As power outputs have risen, sales have declined, the performance of such extreme bikes becoming less and less relevant on public roads which are more and more heavily policed, despite improvements in engine response and handling.

By dropping the RC8 and replacing it with a bike which will not be eligible for homologation, KTM has effectively abandoned the World Superbike championship. If the EU or another major motorcycle market imposes performance restrictions - or bans large capacity sportsbikes altogether - then the viability of WSBK in its current form is called into question. The current identity crisis facing WSBK could become a lot worse.

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What will happen is WSBK will be filled with homologation specials that no normal person will be able to buy, produced in very limited quantities and the "standard" superbike platform will develop very slowly, if at all. Witness the Superleggera, the rumored Honda V4 in the six figure range, the 230 HP "race only" Yamaha, etc. WSBK will drop the homolgation numbers to almost nothing and it will be a de facto prototype championship and if a regular person wants to buy a CBR 1000 he can get the same one that was available 6 years ago.

I do see the sportbike market transitioning to a more high-end market. I went through exactly that when I bought a new bike in 2012. First off, 600s were out - if a 600 is 12K and I can get a 1000 for 14K, why bother with a 600 at all? I looked at the R1, but for 2K more I could get a BMW which is a much better bike out of the box. But I didn't really want an I4, so an 1199 was the choice. The sportbike market is retracting, and those that buy them will want the most tricked-out bike they can get. Remember when Ducatis cost over 20K? Get used to that idea.

I could also be completely wrong.

Can't we impose a rule that Brussels can't make anymore of these rules that rule completely our overruled lives?? What happend to our own responsebility??
Do we have any left yet?? I'm getting realy tired being told by some old men who might never have riden a bike to tell me what I can or can't do. Is there a possibility that your fellow countryman Neil Farrage can do something about this?? ;-)

As long as there are idiots, governments will try to protect them. And protect us from them. That's a government's job, to protect its citizens. Talking about personal responsibility is fine, but what are you doing to help us all achieve it?

Mine might not be a popular point of view, but the fact is, unless parents raise their children properly, idiots will abound. The end result? Governments will be forced to deal with them. Don't like it? Do your part to eliminate the need for governments to be overbearing. Next time you see someone acting like an idiot--especially one of your kids, if you have any--don't just look the other way, say something. Take some responsibility.

... is because they are still a fun bike in their own right. I'm just stepping up to a blade myself and have been on a 600 for a few years - the reason the cost is similar is because the technology is similar. the difference is that mortals can actually push a 600 a little bit, rather than being shit scared of the litre bike.

I've been on a supersport 600 for 7 years now, and am under no illusions, thinking that I am not the limiting factor. the bike is far quicker than I am.

but i've always liked the repsol colours and my 600 now has 100,000 km on it. so it's becoming a dedicated weekend track hack.

Going from a 600 to a 954, I actually found the larger bike no harder to ride. The ergonomics and handling were tighter on the larger bike, but that was a factor of design and intent - not engine size. The larger engine made it easier to ride around because of the extra torque.

That said, the top end was largely useless to me.

Back when superbikes began, it was a bunch of hooligans getting wildly out of shape on unfaired bikes, mostly bastardised Jap across-the-frame fours. Still sounds very exciting now. As the BikeEXIF style becomes ever more popular, wouldn't that be a cool way to go? I'd pay good money to watch the likes of Hayden and Haga slide wide-handlebarred monsters round the world's tracks.

The current MotoGP-lite arrangement? Meh. Be different or be ignored.

Sorry Charlie, it's been done, perhaps you're too young to remember. Back in the day riders like Wes Cooley, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson put on quite a show alright but to a man they will tell you those were some of the worst handling bikes they ever rode. I raced an old Z1 Kawasaki with WERA in the 80's, it was like riding a hinge, can't imagine what it would be like with todays high grip tires. Doubt if you'd get any of today's stars to ride them.

Comparing a Z1 to today's crop of naked bikes, UJMs, standards or whatever you want to call them seems kind of, well, I mean, c'mon....

My wife's first-generation SV650 was a hoot and a half. I can only imagine what it'd have been like with proper suspension.

Not sure how I feel about losing what the U.S. insurance companies refer to as "superbikes." As far as urban riding is concerned, I wouldn't miss them. And back roads with cowshit and dirt and leaves and stuff, my buddy's FZ1 was pretty darned competent.

Differentiation is critical, imo. Once upon a time, GP had 5 different displacement classes, and each class had specialized riders and some specialized manufacturers. GP bikes were two-strokes and superbikes were 4-strokes. Today, all international road-racing is 4-stroke, and all classes lead to one destination, MotoGP.

The motorcycle industry will not prosper by putting all of its eggs in one basket. At least SBK needs to be its own unique style of racing and career destination, not just MotoGP-lite run on the same F1 Tilkedromes as every other series.

where in the KTM press-release does it say theyre dropping the RC8 and abandoning WSBK?

I dont see the RC8 and the track-day only RC16 being mutually exclusive at all. completely different bikes, completely different target-markets, completely different racing DNA.

Pierer said it in his interview with the german magazine Speedweek. He said the RC16 is supposed to become the RC8's successor. That would mean, the RC8 would not be produced any longer. Hence, KTM wouldn't have any street homologated superbike in its product range anymore. It would be their decision to abandon every SBK-racing-series.

Prototype racing is inherently less complicated than launching an emissions-compliant road bike in 50 countries with 50 different versions of road/licensing regulations. The lack of MotoGP participants demonstrates that Honda and Yamaha have fenced-off MotoGP with bogus rules to stop other companies from using it as a marketing platform. I'm not a huge fan of the 24L rev-limited 81mm spec-electronics regulations, but at least the regs are addressing the problem of participation. The new rules should be fun to watch, as well.

Superbike has wedged itself into a no-win situation. Production sales have collapsed, the segment is super-saturated with bikes, AND production superbikes have managed to draw ire from regulators in nearly every developed country. Yet, those problems are only on the production side of the sbk industry. The racing-side of sbk has also collapsed. The major national championships have all withered away or dropped FIM regulations. Most venues cannot handle the incredible top speeds or acceleration of the 1000s, which exposes the riders to unnecessary risks, while putting financial pressure on the venue to make modifications.

If the FIM moves to 600cc SBK, most of the racing costs and safety issues will be eliminated. The 50% reduction in road-going sbk horsepower will give the appearance of safety. Unfortunately, the superbike industry would probably not survive the unmitigated belly-aching of riders and fans.

The only way I can see out of this mess is if the manufacturers take a central-role in reshaping the industry. The fans and riders will follow the manufacturers. They will not follow the FIM or Dorna.

Central point -
Another manufacturer in MotoGP...HOOOORAY!
Sorta related conjecture point takes away from that a bit from where I sit. The RC8 has dismal sales and little racing presence, not seeing so much impact or relevance of a shift away from that. Small potatos relative to lots of other considerations (eg no Yamaha in WSBK?!).

KTM into MotoGP and building on their Moto3 success? WIN that I see as evidence that the Championship electronics are already having a positive influence on removing a major barrier to entry in the series. Yes, more please, thank you (at some threshold the execs sense that every other kid is in the pool and it is time to quit clutching a towel and just hop in...Kawasaki?).

I like it! So we'll have six manufacturers in 2017. Awesome.

If that requires WSBK to die I'm willing to make that sacrifice.

When WSBK is finally laid to rest, there will be an abundance of riders looking for jobs.
Will this drive down the wage demands in MotoGP?

And the best riders are already in MotoGP (Well, Tom Sykes and a couple others could easily replace Yonny Hernandez, Karel Abraham, and Hiroshi Aoyama). I really hope WSBK doesn't die, there just aren't enough MotoGP races to keep me happy. WSBK is fun but the bikes are getting to be semi-prototypes. I'm not sure how to address that but WSBK seems to be in the same rut as MotoGP, just a little wider-only a few riders have the equipment to win regardless of talent.

do we really need 200km/h wheelies?

of course not. we don't "need" sports bikes at all.

but god damn they're fun.

KTM won't be running in WSBK?? Whatever will become of the series? Surely this will lead to the ultimate demise of superbike racing, despite KTM having never been a a factor in WSBK previously.. Get a grip. WSBK will manage just fine without KTM. For all their corporate speak about safety the far more likely reality is that it's incredibly difficult to homologate a competitive package in superbike and then turn it into a race winner. And they're not likely to beat the likes of Honda in MotoGP either but at least they'll get marketing kudos just for competing there as well as easier R&D benefits.

WSBK and MOTOGP have each gone through strong and weak periods over the years, but there is a place for both prototype and production motorcycle racing. Managed properly they both should be different enough to coexist and now that they are owned by the same master we won't have silly situations where superbikes get tuned to GP specifications because of commercial dick measuring.
WSBK should still be ridiculously fast highly tuned sportsbikes but they really need to wind back the electronics to just what's on the machine off the showroom floor.

Some of us will remember the old F1 World Championship which ultimately spawned World Superbikes.
The rules amounted to tuned roadbike engines such as the Kawasaki, Ducati, Suzuki and Honda 750, some ageing Triumph/BSA triples all squeezed into bespoke racing chassis.
It was great until Suzuki produced their own ready made copy which was used to good effect by many racers, the GSXR750R followed by the RC30 and OW01. Superbikes were born and given their own World Championship. This replaced F1 and became the mainstay of racing worldwide, followed by Supersport 600.

Like anything with 'Super' in its name, the whole thing was overblown and dull technically, and now they have become irrelevant to what is being used by the majority of road riders.
At one time a rider of a naked CB750 could identify with the bike that Joey Dunlop was winning the F1 title upon. He could then ride home comfortably with the girlfriend on the back and pick up chips for tea on the way in the certain knowledge that he was part of the winning team.
Then he'd ride it to work all week dreaming that he was emulating Dunlop's amazing feat without once having his knee down.
If he really wanted to, he could buy a Harris, Spondon or Moto Martin Chassis to get that racer feel.

WSBK could do a lot worse than go back to the days of F1, it would be a good thing for the motor cycle industry and the survival of motorcycling as a whole!

How many times has KTM announced they were going to race in MotoGP and other areas only to later drop out? I probably tossed out the issue of Sport Rider or Road Racing World that did an article about KTM entering a factory team and readers writing in saying they would probably change their mind... then a few issues later, KTM decides not to enter.

I hope that we can get more manufacturers to enter MotoGP, but it won't be worth it if they aren't competitive. We can say "yeah this is great news" but if the bikes are not competitive then how different will it be from what we have currently (formerly CRT, now Open Class)? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Suzuki, KTM, Aprilia or even BMW come in and fight for podiums and wins, but if they are all running in the bottom half of the grid I can see them deciding after a few years that it's not worth the R&D costs (remember Kawasaki and Suzuki). Granted at that time the economy was in the toilet.

If Ducati didn't have funding from PM for their factory team would they be considering dropping out? I gotta give it to them though they have really stuck with it and hopefully the next bike is a big step forward.

Stefan Pierer's hanging out with Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto seems to be rubbing off on to him. While Pierer and KTM are reaping the rewards of producing motorcycles of out of India at a low cost, their part owner Bajaj Auto has been going fast down the hill. There could be and are many reasons for that but what is relevant here is what Rajiv Bajaj's often repeated maxim "Racing is a solution to a problem that I do not have". And when the sales of Bajaj branded bikes (more or less clones of the KTM Dukes) have been going down Rajiv Bajaj has been trying to fix his sales problems by adding spark plugs and valves to his engines. That is not a strategy which is working. KTM advertises that it is ready to race and Bajaj says not ready to race. Sadly instead of Stefan Pierer rubbing off on Mr. Bajaj the opposite seems to be happening. Is Pierer hinting at a future where road going motorcycles of KTM will be built in India at a low cost and without the need for any great R&D and his European factory will build high octane track only machines that will cost a bomb to develop? If that is indeed the case, one can only say, bad strategy.

But on the more pertinent subject of the effect that KTM's decisions will have on WSBK or MotoGP for that matter, one can safely say that there will be no effect. As somebody pointed out in an earlier post in this thread when did KTM matter in either of the series? Let Pierer say what he has to with his crystal ball gazing. Manufacturers who have been aggressively involved in racing will find new market segments and strategies to combat the problem of non selling superbikes.

Despite what people think, they don't want to buy racing equipment. The perfect racing engine is one that falls apart as it crosses the finish line in first place. Rebuilds are frequent and the cost of maintenance exceeds what most riders can afford. Production racing bikes are compromised by nature, and the rules determine the steps manufacturers must take to race in a compromised formula. The previous rules allowed the manufacturers to build prototype engines from a stock blocks. As long as the crank was well-built, the engine would be competitive. The new Evo rules are less liberal. The Japanese use relatively small-bore I-4 designs that can handle the stress of racing, without a great deal of modification. Their bikes are reliable on the street, as well. The twin manufacturers are not so fortunate. The twin-cylinder bore figures are quite large, and they are stuck using 4-valves per cylinder. Ducati can afford to build production series of homologation specials, with engines built from exotic alloys that are competitive on the track, yet durable enough for street riding. KTM probably lack the engineers, suppliers, and customer-base to sell homologation specials.

You won't find any twins at the front of a BSB SBK or AMA SBK race. The rules are more influential than the company Pierer keeps.

Mentioned about can be read about here:


The policy adopted at end if 2013 is already on the cards for EU and means that bikes will be forced to comply to same environmental policies as cars in near future.

It is the single biggest step change to the internal combustion motorcycle market since the policies which saw the demise of the two-stroke.

Basically, being phased in stages, all registered motorcycles will need to be Euro4 by 2016, and Euro5 by 2020.

Most notably the first step will introduce on-board-diagnostics to continually monitor emissions. Other things like ABS, or a coupled front-rear brake, are also included in this first phase. The next phase being further tightening limits on emissions.

Theses are not about top speed or HP Limits perse, that must be a different ongoing discussion, but should not be confused with the reasons behind why it was mentioned by KTM that a street bike version of the race bike is not practical / possible.

Also these rules further break out classes of motorcycle by speed / displacement and notably requires manufactures to make the bikes powertrain and emissions monitoring devices tamper proof to prevent performance modifications by end users who may otherwise want to uncork or modify their machines, thus closing the potential for simple aftermarket solutions.

In hindsight, Non-road use track only specials was what first started to happened to the two stroke, with the end result ultimately being displaced from that arena too... Here what we are hearing from a manufacture are the first signs pointing in same direction and leading to the ultimate replacement of 4-strokes.... by what will be electric powered bikes.

do not say that electric bikes, or any other technology, are the way forward. To do so would be pretty dumb (something I do not exclude the possibility of). The aim of the EU bureaucrats is to clean up our air and quieten down our cities and towns. Not unreasonable aims.
These are not related to the size or power output of any vehicle. The existence of vehicles like Bugattis, Ferrari's and the more mundane BMW's and Porsches (note the EU connections) evidence that.
Electric may be one solution, but with much electricity produced by dirty, inefficient coal power stations, and much of the rest (unless you charge in France) being un-sustainable other fossil fuels like natural gas, it is not the clean solution many currently portray. It is also hugely heavy to carry around.
Modern electronics do many things - I have no problem with most of these regulations (nothing is perfect)- and the manufacturers have found ways to meet the regs whilst giving us cars that sound good, and go quick enough to satisfy any sane person, whilst meeting their laws.
KTM are just saying that there isn't a big enough market for top-end 2-wheelers, in the same way that there is a market for Ferrari's or Bugatti's, to enable a road version of a track bike (and you will notice that there isn't really a race-car market to match those examples - anything that gets raced is dramatically different). There are places in Europe, like the UK, where you can get around the bureaucracy if you wish to, but you need customers to enable it.
Why would I want to ride a race bike on the road? I have tried it , and it makes no sense. Give me any major litre/litre + sports road bike already available and that will do fine. £12-30k will satisfy most folk, or £3k - £12k second hand.
KTM probably see a market for that bike and I would agree - there are people out there who would pay that money and, just like the track-dayers who drive their exotic sports cars on track, most will get no nearer to 100% in the corners than their fear of gravel rash or worse will allow.
There are plenty of chances for 2 stroke to make a comeback, and I hope it does. The technology is there now and the global expertise in IC motors and vested interests makes sure that plenty of people are working on carbon-free liquid fuels for the future. It could happen. It may be just another phase in the development of personal transportation, but it could yet lead to a sense of deja vu in bike racing (although it will be less smoky and less 'peaky' than those 500 glory days).
Power plants of all kinds have changed a lot in the past 50 years and the next 50 will be no less different, or predictable.

Pretend i never mentionind the e word and you'd be very interested to follow the links and read the legislation coming.

Since then, Pierer emphasized, KTM's engineers had learned a lot about rideability and smoother power delivery.

I'm guessing I'm not the only KTM customer smiling when I read that?

David, your report that KTM's original racing V4 was built for Kenny Roberts is incorrect. ("The first attempt was an unmitigated failure, when the Austrian company built a V4 machine for Kenny Roberts' Team KR in 2005.")

I believe, if you check back, KTM developed the motor and had gone so far as to sign technicians to develop a MotoGP bike, when the board (read Pierer) saw the folly of their ways and abandoned the project. The cost was prohibitive to KTM then.

KTM had signed Harald Bartol to develop its two-stroke GP bikes (125 and 250) and Warren Willing, originally with KR's team, had switched to KTM to work on the V4 MotoGP project. When that was abandoned, he went on to develop the chassis for the KTM 250.

It was around then that Roberts cut a deal to switch from his own uncompetitive engine (the Barnard-developed V5) and use the KTM V4 motor. That deal ended with KTM taking its engines back when KR failed to pay its bills.

Thus the KTM V4 motors returned to Austria and apparently sat in a basement at Mattighofen (where they may may still serve as a reminder of the folly of a factory-entered MotoGP project).

Thus the new strategy of building a new V4 and selling them. In other words, let your customers do your racing for you.

But is the economy in Europe able to finance even that?

The EU itself could fly apart before KTM's V4 hits the grid, presuming it can find buyers.