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KTM's surprising stance on MotoGP 2025 rider market

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A Marc Marquez reunion, presumably part-bankrolled by a common sponsor in Red Bull? An audacious swoop for Fabio Quartararo? Or, say, a raid on Ducati's coffers of would-be factory riders who by the nature of MotoGP cannot all be accommodated in works team red?

You would think that the Pierer Mobility Group, with its two brands KTM and Gas Gas and four seats across them, would be salivating at the opportunity to pull off a showy rider market coup when so many contracts expire at the end of this year.

According to KTM/Gas Gas motorsport boss Pit Beirer, you would think wrong.

It is no secret that the company didn't very much enjoy last year's edition of the silly season, when it found itself in a five-riders-for-four-seats jam and just couldn't wriggle out without having to take a decision it did not want to take.

Bringing in a big name for 2025 would mean another painful decision within the line-up and, as much as that's business as usual in top-level motorsport, the message from Beirer is clear: PMG would like nothing more than to stand pat.

"Let's hope our boys stay healthy and perform like we all wish, and then maybe it's not even that stressful [like last year] because we stick to the four boys like we have now," says Beirer.

"I don't feel the same pressure coming up right now like we had with Pedro [Acosta], that a guy is just jumping through the disciplines as crazy, knocking on the door one or two years earlier than we expected some time ago.

"So, I feel for the moment we have a great package of four riders. And we can now watch a bit carefully what's going on in the market.

"I can promise you one thing, I will not sign rider number five unless we have a third team or one of the boys wants to leave us.

"[Last year] we brought ourselves in this uncomfortable situation but also, all of you guys followed quite closely why and what and everything that's been said around this topic. Of course it gave us a crazy headache and I don't want to go through this scenario [again], to be honest.

"I feel at the moment we're not in the front row to make big changes, because we believe in the riders we have."

Breaking the stereotype

At this point, you would be right to suggest that Beirer is leaving wiggle room to make the kind of 2025 move he currently says is no priority. After all, there's that key phrase - "at the moment" - offering the plausible deniability, an invaluable ally in the arsenal of any programme or team boss.

And that's all true. But it does not render Beirer's sentiment meaningless. He could've easily taken a different slant here - emphasised that KTM and/or Gas Gas are keeping their options open, which would be perfectly understandable.

Take the current PMG rider line-up. One rider - Brad Binder - is already under contract through 2026, another - Pedro Acosta - is indispensable. But you could absolutely make a very reasonable case that Jack Miller and Augusto Fernandez face uphill battles to keep hold of their KTM RC16s...

...especially if you think about a free agent class that includes Marquez, Quartararo, Jorge Martin, Marco Bezzecchi, etc.

Can we really believe Beirer and the messaging that the existing riders take priority over that array of studs, and can we really take it as more than just a pick-me-up for the currently contracted group ahead of what will be a long-and-hard season?

I think we can. To a point, anyway.

Everything that has come out from PMG suggests that it is still scarred by how 2023 panned out, by the fact it had to move Pol Espargaro aside, despite his two-year contract, after a nasty injury just to ensure Fernandez wasn't the one flicked for Acosta.

And my theory is, it couldn't stomach parking Fernandez to begin with not just because Fernandez was quietly impressive in 2023, but because it had already more or less failed with its three previous prospects out of Moto2, and because it had garnered a reputation for being mercenary with how it deals with riders.

A reputation that it rightly felt would've been enhanced by making Fernandez a one-and-done, which would've prompted an expected outcry of "what exactly did you want from him?!".

KTM/Gas Gas do not want to be seen as disloyal, and certainly couldn't accept being called out for a pattern of disloyalty. The word 'family' is emphasised over and over again, and it is always impossible not to immediately think of CEO Stefan Pierer's very public callout towards Honda for how it discarded Dani Pedrosa and the contrast Pierer saw between that and KTM's own approach.

When you have Binder and Acosta - and a farm system of talent in Moto2 and Moto3 of mesmerising quality - arguably you can afford to prioritise loyalty for the other rides.

Not looking at others

Still, though, think back to those names that will be available in 2025, and it's hard not to see Beirer's stance as something of a surprise.

When The Race puts this to Beirer, he says: 'Well, yeah...look at where we came from with Brad: outstanding, growing with us, being with us, and now he's fourth in the championship, outstanding rider.

"Jack came in as number four in the world [in 2021, fifth in 2022], made us better. He came and he made us better. And then he struggled. So...we stuck to him and at the end of the season we had him almost back where he was. We want to finish the job, we want to have him fully happy again, full season. So there is some work to do.

"Augusto came in as a fantastic rookie, fourth place in Le Mans, gave us already a spike. [We want to see] where can this journey go with this boy?

"And then we have Pedro, a diamond coming up, everybody agrees.

"So I feel at the moment we have four fantastic riders, and I think none of them is already at their peak. They will all still even grow. And we as a manufacturer, also we still have to grow.

"I think still we can do things better, we still need to improve our bike. I hope we did for this year. I want to be competitive this year. But the riders are also going to make their steps.

"We changed even in the background quite some of the training programmes for the boys, we support them stronger than ever with the APC [Athlete Performance Center] from Red Bull [in Thalgau, Austria].

"At the moment I am not looking and talking to any other riders than just trying to make the four we have super, super strong."

There's that "at the moment" again. But, rather than evasive, it feels honest - and only fair.

The third team question

Eagle-eyed readers will have taken note of this from the Beirer answer from earlier - "I will not sign rider number five unless we have a third team".

After its push to expand its presence on the MotoGP grid for 2024 collapsed against series promoter Dorna's unwillingness to open up two manufacturer-reserved grid slots for a new KTM-supplied outfit, which would've presumably been Moto2 form team Ajo, Beirer has not thrown in the towel on the pursuit.

He says KTM is still "discussing" it but, going by the answer, it sounds like the discussions aren't necessarily or primarily with Dorna.

"We have a great plan for how to succeed, and I feel with the four bikes already we've come really close to put some pressure on our friends from Bologna [Ducati]," he says.

"If we think we need a third team, we need to go and get one. If we think two teams is fine, we need to leave it like it is.

"We are in the process, some contracts are up, some teams are looking for a manufacturer. But this discussion is on now, but...also not that simple, because people who are happy and they have a partner, why do they need to change? It's absolutely not decided in any kind of direction."

It sure sounds like a change of focus - now a lot more towards trying to get an existing satellite team to join the fray rather than opening up the grid.

But which one? Gresini extended its deal with Ducati last year to run until 2025. VR46 is widely seen as a likely Yamaha partner if it does leave Ducati. Lucio Cecchinello's LCR has been sounded out, but it feels like it would take quite something for it to leave Honda.

So, it's quite the puzzle as to what the current conversations actually are.

But if KTM wants to have a play at the top free agent riders while also ensuring that it stays as loyal as can be to its current roster, those conversations might well be the only way.

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