KTM rarely does things by halves. Just four races into 2018, the Austrian factory’s second season in MotoGP, and next year is already firmly in focus. Not only was test rider Mika Kallio on track with a prototype ’19 RC16 at the Spanish Grand Prix. Three announcements arrived in four days at Jerez, confirming Johann Zarco and Pol Espargaro in the factory squad for 2019, with Moto2 title contender Miguel Oliveira’s placement in the Tech 3 squad a signing with future years in mind.
Pit Beirer, the factory's Motorsport Director, knows a thing or two about building success up from the very bottom. Having overseen KTM's rise in various off-road disciplines, his intention is to do the same in MotoGP. No one looking on as KTM embarked on its first serious venture into the premier class of motorcycle racing could accuse them of a lack of commitment. So who better to ask about the current state of the factory than Beirer himself?
Crash.net sat down with the German at Jerez to discuss recent signings, the reasons behind a relatively sluggish start to 2018 and the factory’s development plans for beyond this year.
There were three announcements in four days before and during the Spanish Grand Prix regarding your MotoGP rider line-up for 2018. Can you talk a little about the signings you have recently made?
I think to succeed in this paddock you need to have a strategy. If it works later on or not is another question but I think we had a really strong plan and commitment coming into this paddock. We made no secret of why we are doing Moto2. It’s not because we want to sell Moto2 bikes, or because there is a bike on the market. No, it’s to finally make sense out of the [Red Bull] Rookies Cup and the Moto3 commitment. Now [it’s] also to grow with our own riders, going into MotoGP.
That’s something we learned in the off-road side. It’s so nice, something that’s driving our passion in motorcycling. We want to grow up our guys like kids, get them older and win championships with them. Of course, that’s not always possible. Some guys will leave us halfway through. Some guys will never succeed. But some of them that have started with us will win championships with us and will maybe even end their career with us. That’s something unique, that we love. If you look at guys like Marc Coma [five-time Dakar Rally winner] or also [Ryan] Dungey [four-time Supercross champion] or [Tony] Cairoli [reigning MXGP world champion], when they stick with us for many, many years, that’s something we enjoy.
So we are trying to create something similar. For us it was really hard to understand – or hard to swallow – in this paddock that you have kids in the Rookies Cup, you go with them to Moto3, and then on the Sunday at Valencia they go with a bag to the truck next door and ride for somebody else. There was not a possibility to give to them. So now, with this strategy and this dream, the structure is in place. Now it’s up to us to fill it with life and results.