Since KTM entered MotoGP in 2017, the goal was immediately clear: to win. It wasn’t a humble statement, but it’s absolutely true and in line with the Austrian manufacturer who dominated every single championship it had competed in up to then, whether on gravel or tarmac. However, the premier league of the World Cup is another challenge where you will have to face Japanese giants and Italian companies that may lack budget but no skills.
However, KTM did not underestimate the commitment. It made important new signings among the technicians of the other manufacturers and Dani Pedrosa convinced as a test driver, a real gem. Then, in 2019, it secured the services of Tech3, wrested the team from Yamaha and treated the French team not as a customer but as a full-fledged factory team.
The Austrians spared no expense and were the best at taking advantage of the concessions and organized test after test before the Grand Prix to gather data and experience. In the past year in particular, it was a great help when, in times of the Covid pandemic, in its prime, tests for opponents were prevented and the dates of the races were postponed from their usual time. Testing the tires in advance in unprecedented conditions made all the difference and indeed the first win at Brno came with Brad Binder, followed by two for Oliveira, plus four third places for Pol Espargarò.
It seemed that everything was done and the RC16 had arrived among the top motorcycles. In MotoGP, however, things are changing fast and 2021 has not lived up to expectations. Miguel won in Barcelona and Brad in Austria (risking slicks in a flag-to-flag race) but those were two mayflies.
On the one hand, Michelin did without the hard front tires, which the KTM riders (but only they) liked so much, on the other hand, the development of the bike no longer seemed to follow a clear direction. This confusion was also confirmed by the drivers. In summary, When the last step forward was required, the Austrian manufacturer took a step back.
So the RC16 began to be snubbed by the drivers. KTM actually has the best young rider talent project: It starts with the Rookies Cup and the national championships, then it continues into the world championship with Moto3, Moto2 and finally MotoGP. But these talents, who have reached the premier class, want to find a competitive motorcycle.
At the end of 2020, Jorge Martin paid the fine out of pocket to break his contract and join Ducati. That year, Raul Fernandez said he won’t be where he wanted to be in 2022. Two episodes that were a wake-up call.
So they started looking around Austria to strengthen the team from a leadership and management point of view, and their eyes fell on Ducati. The first to arrive in Mattighofen was Fabiano Sterlacchini, who was in Borgo Panigale until 2019. He becomes the new technical director. Francesco Guidotti (HERE is the interview he gave us a few days ago) on the other hand, the new team manager, He is taking the place of Mike Leitner, who has reduced his commitment and will probably take care of the test team.
Is this the right choice? On paper yes and Perhaps it is no coincidence that two Italians were poached. KTM has a lot of resources and expertise, but also a too Germanic, rigid mentality. So in the past few years his communication had been almost absent, if not completely wrong. The most recent case came in Austria when they announced the dismissal of Petrucci and Lecuona in the middle of FP4, “when we were still in our hands,” commented Danilo.
Francesco has a lot of experience, at KTM as a 125 and 250 cc, then at Aprilia in the SBK and above all at Ducati in MotoGP. There is no need to remember his work with the Pramac team, Bagnaia, Miller, Petrucci, Iannone all came through his box on the works team. Martin won on his debut under his leadership that year and Zarco found he was still competitive.
The Tuscan manager has a keen sense for drivers and knows how to get them in the best conditions and knows how to create a calm atmosphere in the garage. All the qualities that KTM needs. Likewise, communication skills that the Austrians have lacked in recent years. With Sterlacchini who will lead the technical side, the pairing is well balanced.
As always in these cases, one cannot imagine that everything will change overnight. 2022 will likely be a running-in season, but then you have to win. The only goal of KTM.