KTM’s made no secret of its desire to expand its MotoGP presence from four to six bikes for 2024.
Series promoter Dorna has so far successfully resisted it.
But now with KTM’s support needed to ensure that a rule change Dorna sees as invaluable happens, is it possible that some hardball negotiations might finally give KTM what it needs?
One reason KTM wants to grow its presence on the grid is the rider conundrum it’s found itself in for 2024.
So far it’s got five riders already signed up to fill its four current grid spots (two each at the Red Bull-backed factory team and at Gas Gas branded satellite squad Tech3).
Unless it finds a solution, one of its current crop of riders is set to get the chop to make way for lower class sensation Pedro Acosta, who’s been promised a 2024 MotoGP graduation with the KTM group.
That’s left recent KTM returnee Pol Espargaro and reigning Moto2 world champion Augusto Fernandez facing uncertainty. With Espargaro having missed so much of his first season back in the KTM fold post-Honda due to the serious injuries he suffered in practice at the season-opener in March, switching him to a development role could’ve felt harsh. So it looked like KTM might try to persuade Fernandez of the value of trying to become a double Moto2 champion and placing him back there for 2024 to buy itself another year to get its additional MotoGP entries.
There’s also the issue of Marc Marquez. On paper he’s a Honda-contracted racer for next year, but KTM is his only realistic escape from the nightmare that is the current RC213V, thanks both to its competitive bike and the financial resources of both KTM and partner Red Bull. Should Marquez want out, then KTM could make it happen – if it had two more bikes on the grid.
It’s tried multiple strategies to create that opportunity, too, first by trying to add two more bikes to the grid (likely run by current Moto2 and Moto3 dominant force Ajo Motorsport and potentially under Husqvarna branding) and then by taking over another team on the grid, with LCR Honda confirming talks that went nowhere.
There remain two spots on the grid that would even make the first of those options an obvious possibility, too, thanks to the departure of Suzuki – but Dorna insists that those two spots remain reserved for a factory squad only despite there being no sign of such a replacement for Suzuki anywhere on the horizon.
KTM appeared to be out of options by the British Grand Prix last week, though its motorsport boss Pit Beirer was still pushing for a miracle.
“I will confirm that we don’t stop pushing and trying to find solutions to get more bikes to the grid,” he admitted to MotoGP’s TV broadcast. “And this has maybe not even too much to do with the situation about Pedro coming in. So that’s one target.
“We are talking to different teams. But there’s definitely not a really big solution or a great solution on the table right now for next year. So many discussions… no news today.”
However, it’s entirely possible that miracle has now arrived for KTM – or, at the very least, that it’s found a way to kick off the conversation again with Dorna, this time thanks to the promoter’s desire to make rule changes and the fact that all MotoGP’s manufacturers hold a veto vote over significant rule modifications.
It’s no secret that Dorna wants to amend MotoGP’s concession rules in order to help return its two struggling Japanese factories to competitiveness, with sporting director Carlos Ezpeleta telling Radio Catalunya a few weeks ago that getting Honda and Yamaha back on the pace was a priority for the series to address.
“We are working to be able to help not only Honda but also Yamaha so that they can get back to being competitive more quickly,” he explained.
“Honda and Yamaha have been very attentive to concessions in the past, which were very fundamental for Ducati to be competitive, for Suzuki to be competitive very quickly, for KTM and Aprilia to enter the world championship and be competitive.”
Given the fact that KTM has something it would like to leverage out of Dorna, it perhaps comes as no surprise at all that Beirer has given an interview to German publication Speedweek clearly stating that any attempts to give extra benefits to Honda and Yamaha will be firmly opposed by KTM.
“We will not support this proposal,” Beirer stated. “There’s a reason for that. Yamaha was vice world champion in 2020 and 2022 and world champion in 2021. Honda has conceded too many concession points over the last year and a half with podiums for Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro and victory for Alex Rins and therefore does not qualify for these concessions.
“We find that neither brand is in a situation to justify a revival of these manufacturers through new concessions regulations. These are good, proud works, they will find their technical way. But they don’t need any concessions.
“What should other manufacturers who have fought their way to the top say?
“How long has Ducati struggled to get back to the top after 2007? We and Aprilia are also fighting.
“Just because Yamaha haven’t won a race this year doesn’t mean they need concessions.”
All is fair, as they say, in love and war – and it’s not hard to imagine a world in which KTM’s opposition to a change to the concession status could go away should it be granted its extra spot on the grid. It’s a consequence of MotoGP giving each factory a veto, it’s the price that it might have to pay in order for everyone to get what they want.