Pit Beirer, director of the KTM racing department, wanted to keep all four of his riders, but the departure of Pol Espargaró sparked more than two weeks of frantic activity at the Red Bull Factory Racing headquarters in Mattighofen.
For KTM, the fact that Pol Espargarò’s manager Homer Bosch was negotiating with Ducati and Repsol-Honda came as a surprise.
“It is clear that an ambitious rider like Pol tries to use the best possible material – Pit Beirer told Speedweek – So then we also had to look around and reposition ourselves. After the first meetings, we agreed that we should implement our strategy, which we have been following for years. We are aligning our MotoGP project with two very young riders for the future. But the two have won 27 GPs together; so they represent a very strong team. At the same time, we have strengthened our Tech3 KTM team with Danilo Petrucci, who will be racing next to 20-year-old Iker Lecuona in 2021," emphasized the KTM race director.
“And we want to make it clear that Tech3 is not our junior team. As early as 2020, we committed to equipping all four riders in the MotoGP class with the same material. As I said: We are no longer talking about A and B teams. We want to try to build something for the future with our young riders. We will have four works riders on the track this year. At the same time, we are extremely happy to have signed Danilo, who finished sixth in the world championship last year, a MotoGP winner who already has experience at the age of 29. He could have the role of a racing ‘captain’. In any case, we will also have a very exciting mix of riders in the 2021 season. I suspect it will also be a quick mix.”
"Finding a successor to Pol Espargarò was difficult," he admitted. “Usually, when you look for a rider, you use information like the latest GP results. But after nothing has happened on the racetrack for months and we hadn't learned anything new there, we had to listen to our gut feeling and remember the achievements of 2019. When we talked to Danilo, we noticed that he is an extremely nice guy. What we particularly liked, of course, was the fact that he has bought no fewer than eleven off-road bikes from KTM and Husqvarna in recent years. The more important aspect is that he is an experienced MotoGP rider with a GP win. And you don't win a MotoGP race by accident. He is one of the few riders who can run MotoGP races at the highest level. And since we have three very young riders on the team, it was also very important to have an experienced teammate.”
And so, within the space of a few days, the KTM riders' puzzle came together.
“Danilo learned very early from his team that he no longer had a place in MotoGP. At the same time we have a new top rider. From that point of view, it was love at first sight.”
After the failure with Johann Zarco, Beirer decided in 2019 that he would never hire a Yamaha MotoGP rider for KTM again.
With Petrucci Beirer has no reservations. After six years on the Ducati V4, the Italian should also be able to tame the KTM RC16.
“It has now been proven that the powerful V4 bikes can be ridden differently to the inline four-cylinders,” emphasized Beirer. “At KTM, we made a conscious decision to opt for this more powerful concept. You need a very determined rider for such a brutal motorcycle. But Danilo comes from a motorcycle with the same concept. That is why we do not expect an eye-opening experience with him like with other riders who could not cope with the different concepts.”