KTM has confirmed a 2021 factory team line-up absent Pol Espargaro while also making the surprise announcement that Danilo Petrucci will ride for its satellite squad next year.
Speculation has swirled in recent weeks that Espargaro is set to displace Alex Marquez at the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the 2020 season, and one-time MotoGP race winner Petrucci had emerged as a possible replacement.
The Italian, himself effectively pushed out of the factory Ducati Team to make way for Jack Miller, then visited KTM’s headquarters last week with manager Alberto Vergani, who spoke in glowing terms of the meeting and facilities.
Petrucci will indeed ride an RC16 next year, but out of Red Bull KTM Tech3 and not Red Bull KTM Factory Racing.
Instead, current MotoGP rookie Brad Binder will be joined at the works team by Miguel Oliveira, who is about to embark on a second season in the premier class with Tech3.
Iker Lecuona, who made his MotoGP debut in last year’s season finale, will remain at the satellite team, where he will be partnered by Petrucci.
While the latter development is a shock, KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer described the factory-Tech3 relationship as effectively a single, four-bike team.
“It gives me great pleasure to stick these four hungry guys together for our MotoGP program,” said Beirer.
“Brad and Miguel have a productive working relationship and have shown the talent and the desire to win races through all stages of Grand Prix. We believe they have the determination necessary to push our MotoGP project forward.
“The same goes for Red Bull KTM Tech3 where we’re happy to bring Danilo into the family.
“His experience counts for a lot but we’re also banking on a rider that is committed and with the right attitude. We believe he still has something to show in MotoGP.
“On one side we are investing in MotoGP front-runners ‘of the future’ but they could easily become stars already in 2021 and that would be exciting to see.
“We have two set-ups but really it is one big team with all four athletes on the same bikes and with the same possibilities.
“Our riders’ development and success will be a great KTM story and it will taste even sweeter to take these guys to new heights in such a tough competition.”
All agreements are referred to as being for 2021, with no mention otherwise of contract terms.
KTM’s announcement did specifically address the subject of Espargaro, however, without naming his destination.
“KTM would like to convey thanks to Pol Espargaro,” it read.
“2020 will be the fourth year together in a collaboration that has delivered several milestone achievements and both parties want to pursue different paths in MotoGP from 2021 onwards.”
The 2020 MotoGP season commences at Jerez on July 17-19.