KTM Complete 2020 MotoGP Line Up: Brad Binder To Factory Team, Iker Lecuona To Tech3

KTM have finally found a solution to their rider line up problem for 2020. Today, the Austrian factory announced that they will be taking Brad Binder directly into the factory Red Bull KTM team, to race alongside Pol Espargaro, while they have signed Iker Lecuona to race in the Red Bull KTM Tech3 satellite squad opposite Miguel Oliveira.

This is something of a shake up to KTM's original plans, caused by the early departure of Johann Zarco. The Frenchman's decision to leave the Austrian factory at the end of 2019 (accelerated to after Misano by KTM's decision to drop him from Aragon onward) left them with a puzzle to solve.

With almost everyone with MotoGP experience tied up for 2020, and most Moto2 riders holding on for 2021, when the entire MotoGP grid is out of contract, finding a replacement for Zarco was almost impossible. They had already signed Brad Binder to the Tech3 satellite team, and had few options to choose from. 

They ended up doing something of an internal reshuffle. Binder has been promoted from the Tech3 team to the factory squad, while Lecuona will be moving up to to the Tech3 MotoGP team, instead of riding in Moto2 with the Ajo squad, as he was signed to do.

These moves are all part of a delicate balancing act. After Zarco announced he would be leaving at the end of 2019, KTM promised Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal that they wouldn't poach Miguel Oliveira from him. Taking Binder instead of Oliveira is a way around that dilemma, and putting the 19-year-old Lecuona in the Tech3 team gives Poncharal another young and exciting rookie. 

There was the minor obstacle of Lecuona already having signed a contract for 2020, but fortune had it that the Spaniard had signed for the Ajo team, currently racing with KTM in Moto2, and still affiliated with KTM despite the Austrian manufacturer's decision to withdraw from Moto2 in 2020. Moving Lecuona up means that Ajo will have to find a replacement for Moto2, but they are recruiting internally. 

There had been a number of names linked to the KTM factory MotoGP ride, with former KTM rider and current Aprilia tester Bradley Smith a prominent candidate. But KTM have decided to gamble on youth over experience, turning down Smith, along with other rumored contacts with veterans such as Alvaro Bautista. 

There are two reasons to go for young riders over experienced riders. The first is that younger riders are less set in their ways, and fewer ingrained habits or expectations to unlearn. In theory, that should allow them to adapt to the rough-and-ready KTM RC16, a bike that needs a very physical style to ride. 

The second is that they are hoping to capture lightning in a bottle in the same way that the Petronas team have with Fabio Quartararo. The MotoGP paddock and team managers are just as susceptible to fads and fashions as everyone else, and with the current feeling that a generation is passing, to be replaced by a younger generation coming into MotoGP, it can sway the decision toward youth over experience.

Binder in the factory team and Oliveira in Tech3 sets up a fascinating battle for the factory seats in 2021. So far, Pol Espargaro has ruled the KTM roost, the RC16 suiting the Spaniard's physical style down to the ground. But Oliveira has shown flashes of real speed on the KTM, and promises to be competitive on the bike once he recovers from the shoulder injury he picked up at Silverstone, where he was taken out in a crash by Johann Zarco. 

Espargaro will be 29 at the beginning of the 2021 season, and if Oliveira improves as much as KTM hope, they may decided to keep the Portuguese rider over the Spaniard. Alternatively, they could throw more factory resources at Oliveira in the Tech3 team, and strenghten his challenge. Oliveira's RC16 is already very close in spec to the factory bikes of Pol Espargaro and (now) Mika Kallio, and as KTM are picking up a large part of Tech3's tab, they could easily increase the support they give the Portuguese rider.

KTM will probably have to do that for 2020 anyway. With Zarco gone, and two rookies among four riders, the development will rest largely on the shoulders of Pol Espargaro and Miguel Oliveira, as the only two riders with MotoGP experience. Dani Pedrosa will continue to bear the bulk of the test work, and define the direction of the bike, but Espargaro and Oliveira will be the final arbiters at the track. As Espargaro has a very specific, physical style, it is easy to see that Oliveira will have a key role to play in making the bike a little less tailored to Espargaro's riding style.

With the signing of Binder and Lecuona, the 2020 grid is now complete, in theory at least. Rumors persist over the position of Jorge Lorenzo at Repsol Honda, but the noises coming out of Japan from HRC top brass were that they will keep the five-time world champion for 2020, and make a decision about the future next year, when Silly Season kicks off in earnest, and when everyone is out of contract and available.

The press release from KTM appears below:

Red Bull KTM MotoGP line-up confirmed for 2020

MotoGP announcement

Red Bull KTM will field former world champion and class rookie Brad Binder alongside Pol Espargaro for 2020 MotoGP. The South African’s saddle, initially planned at Red Bull KTM Tech3, will be taken by Spaniard Iker Lecuona.

KTM have decided to invest and trust in the racing instincts of two MotoGP debutants for 2020 and for the next development phase of the factory RC16.

Brad Binder’s impressive progress through Moto3 and Moto2 divisions meant the 24-year old was well on the road to a premier class saddle for 2020 but with a slot opening in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team Binder has been placed next to Pol Espargaro for his first term.

Iker Lecuona, who has taken Moto2 podium honours in both 2018 and 2019, had been signed for a Moto2 ride in 2020. The 19-year old has now been promoted to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 MotoGP effort alongside Miguel Oliveira.

Four riders, three nationalities and three athletes below the age of 25 means KTM are now set for their fourth year of MotoGP participation.

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “It was clear that our plans for 2020 needed to change following our mid-season announcement. After some thought and talks we decided to move in this direction and let the young, hungry guys with good experience in the other categories of MotoGP show us what they can do. Brad is a rider that has made his way through the KTM structure and we have no doubt whatsoever that he can walk into the Red Bull KTM team and keep showing that same style and never-give-up attitude we have seen for a long time. Iker comes into the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team and we’re super-confident that Hervé and his guys will be able to help and develop another rookie like they have done so well with Miguel this year. We know we are making good and exciting steps with our MotoGP project and with next season now fixed we can really start building up to this new chapter.”

Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “I’m super-happy with the duo we have for 2020. We had a long discussion about it but finally I think it is a good decision that KTM made. In Pol we have a very strong rider who has made good results for us and we’ve seen in the other categories what Brad is capable of with our bikes. He is one of the young kids that has come through the rank. It will be a big challenge for him but I think he will have a great future in MotoGP.”

Hervé Poncharal, Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Principal: “My feeling is that this is the strongest 2020 KTM line-up we could have hoped for. We want to have four riders with talent, passion, will and that they will stick to the project. Personally I am happy to work with a young and talented rookie like Iker. This is the way to go for the future and we have seen that the same approach has brought some success to other teams. Let’s start working on 2020: we have the technical support and we have the right people onboard. I believe we will take a big step next year with both Miguel in his second year and Iker keen to show us what he can do.”


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Have been waiting with for Binder to make it to motogp and there he goes.

He's got grit and determination and he comes across as an intelligent and mature person. I am very looking forward to seeing him in action on the bigger bike.

Congratulation to both riders!

Out with the old in with the new...

Expect some serial fairing bashing from the elder Binder brother... Which will upset the established stars as usual - "he's out of control" "dangerous" blah blah blah (my bleeding heart)... until he starts beating those established stars.

A great fit for KTM to promote from Moto2 where he grabs the KTM/Triumph by the scruff and throws it at the competition. It will be exciting to watch! 

How can I already be looking forwards so much to the 2020 season, when this one isn’t over yet? Albeit the championship is already won. And then onto 2021!

The times they are a changing. VR46 will be done CC35 still there beyond 2020? Doubtful. Will JL99 even make it to the end of 2020? AD04 35years old by the start of 2021. There are others who are getting long in the tooth and FQ20 has shown the teams that you don't have to necessarily only look at the Moto2 serial winners.

Was it too soon to consider promoting Jorge Martin? In my opinion that kid is pure class.

A slap in the face for Miguel.  Binder is indeed impressive in Moto2 right now but Olivera was punching well above his weight before being taken out by Zarco.  They could have promoted MO to the factory team and run BB and IL in Tech3 and nobody would have bat an eyelid.  Seems like another KTM HR blunder to me.  Even if they believed BB to be the future they could have run him in T3 with full factory support. 

In other news... I wonder how Lacuona will go?  He's also been very impressive, well and truly over-performing on the 'gen1' KTM Moto2 nail.  In at the deep end though.

that Oliveira would stay in Tech 3, Hervé had insisted, and got KTM's promise on it. Direct quote from the piece above by David..

"After Zarco announced he would be leaving at the end of 2019, KTM promised Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal that they wouldn't poach Miguel Oliveira from him."

This is promising given how much Binder has over ridden the Moto2 KTM this year.  That bike was admittedly not competitive but somehow he muscled his way to the front by pure determination.  That is the kind of commitment KTM needs in the factory.  Looking forward to seeing what he can do in MotoGP.

Question: how is Dani P the best test rider, if the KTM demands a physical style, and he's very light and not known for being able to bully a bike around a track?

The reason Pedrosa is a great test rider is first and foremost because his feedback is great. After that, because he is so small, he can't use his body to bully the bike, so he has to get the performance from the bike, and that means being very sensitive to what the bike is doing. If the aim of KTM is to make a bike which is easier to ride for everyone, having a test rider who is smaller is very useful.

I did an interview with Mike Leitner about this a couple of years ago, where he explains it all quite well. You can read it here.

...Mighty Mite successfully wrestled the Honda. Tons of experience.

Fairly optimal choice for the KTM. And the proof is in the pudding, everyone in the program is overtly praising him.

I liked that piece linked to ^ and always look fwd to such things. Any chance you can check in w Brivio or someone else in there re what is developing in the bigger picture of the Suzuki project? Thanks!!

Thanks for the great work you are doing David. Love it.

Betwixt Pol and Brad they bully the bikes and opposition and yet are both super savvy on race day..  Iker is more than a bit of a bully himself. Miguel along with Dan (test rider)i adds some finesse within the teams forward motion. re development. All riders out of contract for 2021 which brings me to another ace in the form of Jorge Martin. I suspect he is now the sword of Damocles hanging over every KTM rider's head in GP 2020. The one of four on the RC16 that fairs worst will be axed politically correctly as per Zarco about mid season next year to be replaced by Jorge Martin. Win, win decision by KTM. KTM will not have left Martin in the lurch. Behind the scenes he knows this. 

Have a look, here is Lecuona's job interview.
2019 Moto2 Thailand

White w red bike, green on rider
The kid looks really good here!

Skip to 3 mins. Best is 7 mins thru the finish, even dog fight he and Binder battling for 2nd to the flag. (No commentary video feed, highlight cut)


Oliveira's frustration/resentment re being skipped over for Binder for the Factory seat is understandable. He was pretty gracious about it. The injury set back (and Zarco irony) must be really discouraging. Unlucky timing for Oliveira, lucky Binder. Herve's garage is not a bad place to be! Well known as a supportive, convivial, and very competent team. Still getting great kit. It is exciting what is going on in Orange, the youth with big potential over seasoned rider strategy looks wise (especially these days with the lessons of Zarco and Jorge). Expect one of their 3 younger riders to step up into the pace and catch Pol next year. Also a continued closing in on the front 4 bikes by KTM. Binder has been well anticipated, and perhaps for good reason. He looks a fit particularly for the more physical V4's.

If the Suzuki was the best Yamaha on the grid in 2018, could the KTM hope to be seen similarly relative to the Honda? It may seem a bit nuts now, but so did the Suzuki-Yamaha consideration a while back.

Expecting improved Honda handling for 2020, but very much hoping otherwise. Loving this Orange project. Having no single standout best bike on the grid is interesting. (We have the inverse w Aprilia, don't we?). KTM has walked away from the rear pack steadily and more quickly than anticipated. 2020, continued roll-on.

Whelp, how about Suzuki then? Curious about that project now. Q should be getting sorted. I have Rins pegged for a resurgence now. Is anyone feeling more solidly confident about their project? It is hard to clearly see the 2nd Team and major sponsor solidifying. Which is a bit maddening given how wonderfully close Suzuki is to this. Still. If they have been learning from Yamaha's successes and travails, the strong Aqua second team with significant Malaysian oil money and structural supports/talent can be a roadmap. Strong test program. As opposed to rolling old bikes over to be customer leased, Factory bikes in a partnership. Right Herve?

The transition Tech3 just underwent wasn't an easy one. Factory Yamaha bikes finally arrive for the 2nd team, but not his (excruciating?). French phenoms #5 (slips away and falters) and #20 (passes by to the new 2nd Team)...just out of reach. The 2018 Orange bike was not sufficiently developed and misbehaved.

Now Oliveira and Lecuona looks a great lineup. Herve makes and develops young talent well. KTM bikes are "real deal" now this year. His team and riders can "pull a Petronas" and beat the Factory garage. This healthy vibrant program can catch the four race winning machines to make it five. (Dare I say it, but if The Marc was factored out, for 2019 it might be three front running bikes? 15 yrs or so of hexing the Honda program, pardon me while I go back to pushing pins in the front end and bento box of the voodoo doll bike in the basement).

Congrats to Herve and Tech3 here, you deserve it. Welcome to the 2 promising kids, nice to have you.

Why are some poster’s blaming Zarco for Miguel’s injury? He was nowhere near when Rossi took out Miguel

British GP was the primary injury apparently that stalled Oliveira's surge...brief video


Next patient is arriving via a Vespa, enjoyed tippity-typing streams of thought but have to go try to bring the motorbike riding microcosm to treating depression. "So thinking alot, stiffness, no gas and apprehension? How about trusting the turning...acknowledge the fear and say yes to gas at turn in!"

Rossi took out Nakagami at Assen. Zarco came together with Oliveira at Silverstone at the apex of a turn during a failed pass attempt. Oliveira was unable to race at Misano because of his injury.

In my view, one of the stand out riders across all three classes this year is Brad Binder.  The Moto2 KTM chassis was terrible at the start of the year but despite that, Binder figured out a way to ride around most of its obvious deficiencies.  At Termas de rio Hondo he was backing the Austrian machine into corners almost like a dirt-tracker because he could not trust the front.  Somehow he worked up from tenth to fifth, then got penalised a place for some infringement at the end.  Iker Lekuona started seventh and finished fourth.  However, unless KTM improves the chassis geometry of its MotoGP machines in 2020, Binder will struggle to make it into the top 10.  Look at Pol Espargaro.  2014 was his MotoGP rookie season. He finished the championship sixth on the Tech3 Yamaha.  In 2015, he was ninth and in 2016 he finished the championship in eighth.  He joined KTM in 2017 and finished the year 17th.  In 2018 he was 14th and at present, with one round to go, he is 11th.  The fact is, the KTM is nowhere near as competitive as a satellite Yamaha ride so Binder will struggle for decent results.  One thing for sure, it will be entertaining watching him try!