It was one of the worst kept secrets in the MotoGP paddock, but up until now it was only a rumor. After Tech3 team announced that it wouldn’t extend its collaboration with Yamaha beyond 2018, KTM jumped into action and secured a deal with the French based team that has Hervé Poncharal at its helm.
From 2019 and up until 2021, Tech3 and KTM will join forces and take to the track two factory RC16 prototypes on top of the two bikes already being used and allocated to the Red Bull KTM factory team.
For the Austrian manufacturer, this will allow for a faster development of the RC16, because it’s totally different to have two or four bikes on track and gather data from all those bikes will prove useful in the future for KTM.
This will also make KTM the first brand to have four MotoGP prototypes with factory specs in every race of the World Championship, beating Honda and Ducati, three bikes each, and also Yamaha that for the moment only has two factory bikes confirmed, same as Aprilia or Suzuki.
The Hamamatsu brand is supposed to reveal its plans for a satellite team, but if Suzuki really agrees to supply more GSX-RR prototypes to another team other than Ecstar Suzuki, that structure probably won’t have access to factory parts or a complete factory spec MotoGP bike.
As for Hervé Poncharal, Tech3 Racing team manager, joining forces with KTM will give him and his riders all they wanted to have from Yamaha Racing but never received: factory support.
Tech3 rider Johann Zarco has been on top form in MotoGP. He was a two times Moto2 world champion before going up to MotoGP last year, and since the first race in top tier, Zarco showed everyone he’s a rider that will be fighting for wins at every race and for the MotoGP title. Tech3 asked Yamaha for more factory support, but the Japanese team declined to do so, and maintained factory support only for Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha squad.
Seeing his team wouldn’t get what they needed, Poncharal made the switch to KTM, putting and end to 20 years of a strong connection with Yamaha.
For the moment there is no word yet as to who will be riding the KTM RC16’s of the Tech3 team. Johann Zarco is a clear favorite, but Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin, that will be racing full time this year in MotoGP with Tech3, is also on the list of riders that can be with the Tech3 KTM squad.
Hafizh Syahrin only rode a MotoGP bike twice, and on the last test before the start of the season, held in Qatar, the talented Malaysian rider impressed everyone with his pace and showed great potential even if he’s just a MotoGP rookie.