until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


KTM creates an ‘elimination race’ for final 2024 MotoGP ride

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The returning Pol Espargaro’s sublime ride to sixth place in the MotoGP sprint at the Austrian Grand Prix came against the backdrop of KTM indicating he was now in a shootout for a 2024 Tech3 Gas Gas ride against Augusto Fernandez – with its bid to add two more KTM RC16s to the 2024 grid having failed.

Espargaro had qualified 13th in his second weekend back from a lengthy absence – following brutal face and spine injuries sustained in the Portimao opener in March – and, while admittedly being aided by incidents up ahead, converted that into a sixth-place finish.


He was close to KTM works rider Jack Miller, who was struggling with tyre pressures, at the flag and finished ahead of brother Aleix – who was effusive in his praise.

“We see other riders that come back from injury, and they say they are not perfect on the bike after 10 GPs – ‘Ah, I’m still in some pain’,” said works Aprilia rider Aleix.

“My brother almost ended up in the [wheel]chair. He was not able to eat and to walk for a month.

“And he finished sixth today, in his second GP, with almost no experience with the bike.

“So, we have more patient, we have to give more credit. This is the most difficult class of the world.”

But the elder Espargaro’s plea for “patience” relates not just to media speculation, but to what he himself acknowledged was a “complicated” situation across KTM and and its sister Gas Gas team.

KTM has a locked-in line-up of Brad Binder and Miller for 2024 in its factory team, but there are three more riders under the umbrella of parent company Pierer Mobility Group who are all expecting (and are even thought to be contracted) to have a MotoGP ride next year.

Those riders are Pol Espargaro, Augusto Fernandez and Moto2 superstar Pedro Acosta, who has wowed at the Red Bull Ring this weekend in taking a commanding pole position despite a crash early in his qualifying session.

Pedro Acosta

German publication Speedweek revealed on Saturday that KTM has accepted defeat in its pursuit of extra bikes on the grid for 2024, with the grid spots that were targeted still reserved by promoter Dorna for a theoretical new factory entry.

And CEO Stefan Pierer told Speedweek this now meant a “sporting elimination race” to determine Gas Gas’ 2024 line-up.

Acosta is thought to be nailed on for a promotion from Moto2 into one of those Gas Gas seats, creating a theoretical head-to-head between the younger Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez – who has impressed both outside observers and the Pierer Mobility Group hugely at various points of the season, but admitted that he has so far been simply “slow, overall” at the Red Bull Ring.

Fernandez said it was “no pressure for the moment” as far as what KTM has asked of him – and when asked by The Race specifically about the head-to-head battle revealed in Speedweek, he was coy, replying: “Pffffff… I am not the person to ask this.

“I know I will continue with the same team, same bike, same people. It’s good for me to continue another year to arrive to the top. That is the main thing.”

Espargaro, who is still raising with a “quite affected” neck nerve that is impacting his physical condition, was more open about the prospect – perhaps understandably so given he has had the clear upper hand over Fernandez in Austria.

Pol Espargaro

Of his brother’s praise, which also included Aleix saying that Pol was simply the strongest of the options regardless of the contractual situation, he said: “It’s easy to talk after a race. I understand – I know that he says because he is my brother and he loves me. But I understand also the people talking about my seat.

“This is MotoGP, and when you are not here and not performing well, there are a lot of talented guys that want to jump on your bike. And this is natural and normal.

“I’ve been dealing with this for all my career. I’ve been 15 years here in the MotoGP world. I understand all the positions and especially in the competitive world, and I really think it has to be like that, it needs to be like that.”

Asked by The Race whether this was still true even when he was specifically under contract for 2024, as he has repeatedly emphasised, Espargaro said: “What does it says to the people? The people want to see the show. And you guys as journalists – you give this to attack the people, and it’s OK, you cannot be angry about that.

“As I said, I’ve been many, many years here in the world championship, I know how this works. And the most important is to know what you have and to be pleased and at ease and relaxed, as I am, as I’ve been – surrounded with good people like Borja [Gonzalez, assistant], Homer [Bosch, manager] and for sure my super wife.

“And for me, it’s not important.”

Pol Espargaro

Asked about Pierer’s revelation specifically, he said: “I mean, you know Mr Pierer, he’s a shark! And he wants the best guys on his bikes. And I understand, I fully understand. For sure, I will try to be the best Pol possible, even with my limitations I will try to be the fastest.

“Still, I have a contract for two years – but anyway I will try to be fastest in every race, and in a couple of races Misano is coming. I’m very, very fast there.”

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