2019 has started brightly for the ‘orange’ brigade with success at the Dakar, in Supercross arenas, on the French beach sand and in national motocross circles. Now it is the turn of the asphalt crew to quickly spin the wheels.
For the first time the KTM Race department drew their MotoGP force together not only to unveil the Red Bull colours for the 2019 campaign but to graphically illustrate the strong path through to the pinnacle of Grand Prix that begins with the Red Bull Rookie Cup, progresses to Moto3, Moto2 and to the premier class. After two impressive seasons in MotoGP where the manufacturer grasped their first points, first top ten finishes and ended the second term with their maiden podium trophy in Valencia, the effort is now doubled with the experienced Red Bull KTM Tech3 unit placing another two RC16s on the grid.
KTM were proud to highlight their Grand Prix structure and the potential for 2019 but it was arguably the presence of the athletes themselves and the new liveries on the race bikes that also caught the eye.
Red Bull KTM will count on a total of 3 world championships and a grand total of 39 victories among their four-rider roster from Spain, France, Portugal and Malaysia with a haul of 92 Grand Prix podiums shared between them.
Pol Espargaro (28 in June) will begin his third season with the factory RC16 and his sixth in the premier class. He is joined for the first time by fellow former Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco (29 in July) – the most successful Frenchman in Grand Prix history. Red Bull KTM Tech 3 field the promise of Hafizh Syahrin (25 in May and the first Malaysian to compete in the premier class and now set for his second MotoGP year) and Miguel Oliveira: another ‘first’ for his country – Portugal – in MotoGP and the recently-turned 24 year old rookie is the first rider to have come up the Moto3 and Moto2 KTM ladder. MotoGP is backed up by the rapid test team duo of Mika Kallio and Dani Pedrosa.
Pol Espargaro: “We have a big target in front of us this year and I think we are in a good place. Johann has integrated into the team well and already looks fast. It means that we are set for the season. I thought Miguel was very fast at the test and that was surprising for a rookie and I know Hafizh is working really hard. All the info the Tech3 guys can bring will be helpful for me, the team and all the engineers. I know, from my experience, that Tech3 are good for helping and teaching the riders, and also improving the bike. 2019 will be about improvement: nobody is perfect and I learn something every year. I think with Johann as a teammate hopefully I can learn from him and apply it to myself to be a better rider and a better worker. I just want to give the best of myself in 2019 and the most I can to the team.”
Johann Zarco: “I’m happy to be here, and this is my first factory team presentation! I discovered Mattighofen and the KTM factory for the first time in January and I was very impressed. After a few tests now I am very happy: I feel that the people in the team trust me and it’s nice to feel that confidence. We’ve done some good work so the motivation is high. Even when we make big improvements at a test we still see that we have a lot to do and have steps to make. It helps to move forward. I believe in what we can do. I would say I am a fast rider so I can give good information and I am very proud to be part of this story in KTM.”
Miguel Oliveira: “I’m very happy with the new colours, the bike is amazing. The look of everything is just incredible, quite different from what we are used to. It’s such a nice project, that KTM and Red Bull got together; to have two factory teams on the grid is something pretty unique and it shows clearly that KTM wants to try and dominate this class and road racing in general. I’m just really proud and I feel privileged to be a part of this project.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “I’m really excited about the new livery. I think it’s truly different than everything else on the track. I can’t wait to be on track with this bike in Qatar. It looks amazing and I guess even more so under the floodlights in the desert. I’m very delighted about this look and can’t wait to get the season started!”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “2019 is our third season in MotoGP and it is already a milestone thanks to the presence of Tech3 and a new rider in our factory team. It will be very challenging but we hope we can continue the road to the top. We’ll have some bumps on the road but we have worked well in the winter and should be able to look forward to some positive moments this season. I really hope the partnership with Tech3 will give us essential information to improve our MotoGP bike and the total KTM package in order to make the next step in positions and race results.”
Herve Poncharal, Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager: “It’s been great to show the world our new livery. I saw the colours for the first time at the end of December I couldn’t believe it: this is such a cool bike. For sure, the most important for a racing bike is to be fast and we are working on that. The test we had in Sepang a few days ago was very interesting. But if the bike can be fast and good-looking, it’s a big bonus. Therefore, we are more than proud to have shown what our livery will finally be and I can’t wait to see it under the floodlights in Qatar because it will look even more amazing. Hopefully, we can see these bikes with this livery in strong positions.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “For us this is another very special moment in our racing story and it’s a milestone for us to have that structure in place. Our road race project has been building consistently since 2012 in terms of structure, confidence and people. I would say we have an amazing ‘path’ in place where you can go from a Rookies bike through all the categories to a MotoGP bike. In the premier class two motorcycles is not enough to be able to develop technology up until the highest level so having a second team in the MotoGP gives us an amazing feeling that our system is in place. We will work with this programme and that doesn't only mean young riders and trying to get them through but also the bikes for each category with a strong in-house line-up and effort. That's why today is very special.”
Stefan Pierer, CEO KTM Group: “Racing is the core content of our DNA. That means forced innovation every week or every two weeks. We see on the TV or the internet how many tenths of a second are missing and that really drives us to do everything what we can in the end to touch the top of the podium. That's our philosophy and that has driven us to success over the last thirty years but in this racing world we are still beginners: this is our third year. This is a five year programme and by the end we want to see podiums and for the upcoming racing season I’d like to see single digit results; that's realistic because we are still collecting data and we miss all the experience of our competitors. For 2019 – in gambler’s speak – it’s ‘all in’.”
The MotoGP line-up will travel to Qatar for the last three-day dial-in test on February 23rd and just two weeks before the nineteen round season begins at Losail.