until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


11 implications of KTM's move for Vinales and Bastianini

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

No MotoGP silly season developments this season have any chance of dethroning the Marc Marquez/Jorge Martin Ducati saga as the biggest story. But in a more normal campaign, KTM's move to bring in two proven race winners and supercharge its line-up would've been a tough one to beat.

The signing of Maverick Vinales and Enea Bastianini at Tech3 takes a phenomenal MotoGP 2025 'transfer window' into what is probably its final stretch - and will have serious repercussions for riders and teams up and down pitlane.

Here's our view of the situation following KTM's announcement.

KTM has the pull now (and it's probably due to Acosta)

The manufacturer was already an attractive destination coming into this season, positioned as probably the likeliest medium-term option for any rider to be challenging the Ducati armada week in, week out.

But though it hasn't actually taken a definitive step in terms of the pure results (140 points in the manufacturer's standings now, 135 at the same moment last year), Acosta's rides in what are still the early days of his MotoGP career have changed perceptions of where the RC16's baseline of performance actually is.

And, certainly, it showed Tech3 in a very good light. Instead of thinking about its up-and-down record with riders during its KTM time so far, Vinales and Bastianini are clearly convinced that it can do for them what it had done for first Miguel Oliveira and now Acosta, ie put them basically on par with the works team and in contention to win grands prix.

The fact both of them have taken the plunge despite the potentially intimidating prospect of riding the same bike as Acosta - who has made KTM's incumbents look frankly incapable at times this year - shows just how much faith there is in this project.

Binder needs to watch out

It is never a great sign when there's different messaging between the rider's camp and their employer over what their contract actually says - in this case, that different messaging related to whether KTM had the capacity to shift Brad Binder to Tech3 for 2025.

The announcement effectively confirms it won't be trying to do that, but the fact it even came up is a reflection of just how much of a handful Binder has found having Acosta as a stablemate.

And the signings of two proven grand prix winners at Tech3 mean Binder is more expendable than ever. At his best, he should probably see off both Bastianini and Vinales, but it is no big stretch to imagine that one of them could really gel with the RC16 and relegate Binder further down the KTM pecking order if the South African is still short of his past consistency in form.

Aprilia's next step should be simple

Regardless of how it will be spun, losing Vinales is not great for Aprilia, given it is now set to head into 2025 with tester Lorenzo Savadori as effectively the only reference point of continuity in its line-up (with Aleix Espargaro expected to be test rider elsewhere).

But Jorge Martin's signing promises a brave and successful future, so the pressure is obviously reduced on filling out the line-up - and good options are still on the market.

In fact, there has long been a feeling, before Martin became available and before Bastianini committed to KTM, that Aprilia would be quite happy to pivot to Marco Bezzecchi. He is a rider who Espargaro too had brought up unprompted as a potentially good fit for the project.

Bezzecchi has struggled in 2024, though, and Aprilia would be wise to do its due diligence on whether his ongoing understeer struggles are specific to the 2023-spec Ducati he has under him this year, or something more fundamental.

Ultimately, the Valentino Rossi protege has to be heavy favourite here now - but Aprilia could always turn to his VR46 team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio or someone like Joan Mir.

Ducati has no sweetener for Pramac

Bastianini and Vinales would've been credible options - maybe the most credible - for Ducati to try to land on a works contract to place at Pramac as a way of enticing it to stay.

Martin, you'd think, would've done the trick, given he is a realistic candidate to win a riders' title for Pramac. But he was never going to accept it, and the other appetising option in Marc Marquez said no.

Pramac, thus, will have known for a while now that its chances of fighting for a riders' crown next year are effectively nil now - but its chances of getting somebody in who could at least be a regular frontrunner have dwindled, too.

Which means that the lucrative offer to become Yamaha's satellite team instead now definitively comes with a less of a performance downgrade than it could've done.

The (confusing) branding experiment is over

Rumblings that Tech3 would shed its Gas Gas identity in 2025 had been very loud in recent times - but the expectation was that the team would rebrand to MV Agusta, the legendary Italian manufacturer now also under the Pierer Mobility Group umbrella.

Instead, Tech3 simply returns to being a KTM satellite team in name again, as it already clearly was in status. Removing that distinction - that MotoGP this year has a satellite team with 'Factory' in its name - is probably for the best when it comes to messaging for fans.

But the press release is cause for some slight alarm bells to ring in the description of Tech3 "going full Red Bull orange" and "forming a Red Bull orange quartet".

Tech3 has had some great liveries as of late - both in the Gas Gas red and in what came before - and KTM must ensure that continues, and that its livery designers ensure the paint job is very obviously distinct, even from afar, from the Red Bull-driven main KTM colours.

David Alonso in 2027?

KTM's multi-year commitments to both Vinales and Bastianini mean that the door is - officially, at least - closed to bringing someone through from its junior ranks until 2027.

This is quite a step, because its junior ranks are famously formidable, but it's true that none of the Moto2 riders under its umbrella have made a strong case.

VR46 protege Celestino Vietti has been just OK at its main team Ajo, his team-mate Deniz Oncu is a rookie (and has just suffered a potentially season-altering training injury), Jake Dixon has his age playing against him and Izan Guevara still hasn't totally found his feet in the intermediate class.

But KTM's lightweight-class roster is mesmerising, and right now it has a clear standout too in David Alonso.

The Colombian's current points lead actually undersells the performance margin he has looked to have over his rivals in Moto3. He has been so potent it would be far from ridiculous to suggest he could be a single Moto2 season away from the premier class - or even be plugged in from Moto3 directly.

But KTM was patient with Acosta, and is reaping the rewards. And this is a clear signal it plans to follow the same blueprint with its next potential superstar.

Expect at least one MotoGP exit

Of KTM's dropped riders, sophomore Augusto Fernandez looks to have zero realistic options to remain on the grid - although the same was said about Di Giannantonio last year, and look how that turned out.

Fernandez's rookie season in 2023, and particularly his fourth place at Le Mans, means his MotoGP tenure has not been a wash in any case, but there's no pitch to any team to be made so far on the basis of his 2024. He was already an unlikely MotoGP pick in the first place, and while he rightfully has a lot of admirers for his approach and conduct as a 26-year-old 'project' rider that will only take him so far.

He would be a wonderful pick-up for someone in World Superbikes. So, too, could be Jack Miller.

But Miller will have a stronger case to make to prospective MotoGP employers as a development asset. He had already been linked to a potential Honda return - as a replacement for the disillusioned Joan Mir.

Vinales can go for history again

This year's Grand Prix of the Americas outcome means Vinales is now the sole rider in the MotoGP era to have won in the premier class on three different brands. But across the whole of grand prix history, he's just one of five - alongside Mike Hailwood, Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson and Loris Capirossi.

But none of them won with four different brands. And Vinales' arrival in KTM positions him to do just that.

Arguably, he's the perfect rider to go for that milestone; the problem with Vinales has never been his peaks and, while it will depend on the swiftness of his adaptation to the RC16, don't be surprised if he's the one to write this unique, nomadic record into the MotoGP history books.

Bastianini's big reunion

In what is still only his fourth year in MotoGP, Bastianini has rediscovered a bit of his 'old' self this year - but 2022 remains his standout campaign.

That campaign took place under the stewardship of crew chief Alberto Giribuola, who then promptly left to...yep, KTM.

Giribuola has had a more senior role in that project, but it is intuitively clear that he and Bastianini will team up again in some capacity. And it must be part of the reason for Bastianini to take the plunge, spurning other potential opportunities that have obvious continuity or status advantages over a Tech3 gig.

Spare a thought for Yamaha and Honda

So, KTM now has three riders who are established grand prix winners - and the odd one out who isn't a winner is nevertheless probably the best of the four. It is a deliriously fun line-up, and a real statement of intent in targeting Ducati, which may actually be second-best now in terms of strength in depth even despite having more bikes.

But it should be more galling for MotoGP's lagging Japanese manufacturers, who will need to hope Bastianini or Vinales or both totally botch their RC16 adaptation - or make significant strides in their own development.

Because, otherwise, the mission impossible of getting M1s and RC213Vs in Q2 in any given weekend has just got a lot harder.

Ducati will still do it with 80% of its line-up each weekend regardless of how it fills out the rest of that line-up, Aprilia will have Martin take up permanent residence there, and now KTM has four riders who will all be expected and required to run towards the front.

In theory, all this only raises the level of competition - and it means Yamaha and Honda have their work cut out for them to make any development gains translate on track.

For Yamaha, especially, it places an even bigger onus on improving one-lap speed.

Its race pace is fine in Fabio Quartararo's hands, but its job of getting Quartararo into respectable grid positions in 2025 has just got more difficult.

Weak points targeted

There are reasons for pessimism for Bastianini and Vinales, as with any move. But here are two major reasons for optimism.

Vinales has been hugely hamstrung by his starts at Aprilia. And both he and Bastianini have an overwhelming reputation for being way too timid in opening-lap melees.

But the RC16 starts very well virtually all the time, certainly in the hands of Binder and Miller. If KTM can translate that for Vinales and Bastianini, give them some extra track position they need more than maybe any other rider on the grid in the early going, it could unlock them in a way none of its rivals would be able to.

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