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MotoGP, Jorge Martin's return to KTM was never seriously taken into consideration

Beirer: "If someone leaves us hanging during the coronavirus period, we will think twice if we want that rider to return to the family sooner or later."

MotoGP: Jorge Martin's return to KTM was never seriously taken into consideration

Jorge Martin had already lost out to Enea Bastianini in the battle for a place on the Lenovo Ducati Team in September 2022, because "Bestia" had scored four victories that season and a fantastic third place in the World Championship riding the Gresini Ducati.

At the same time, however, Bastianini had made himself unpopular with Ducati top management on several occasions because he had fought relentlessly against title contender Bagnaia when world champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) had challenged him at length for the title.

In the 2022 Misano GP, Martin had announced that he would race with Pramac Racing for another year, after which he was determined to join an official MotoGP team. However, after narrowly missing out in the title fight and after a sensational season, he stayed with Pramac for another year, where he had thrilled team owner Paolo Campinoti at Spielberg 2021 with the first MotoGP victory of the Pramac Ducati era (which began in 2005).

When it became clear that Marc Márquez would join the Ducati Lenovo team after a first year (so far winless) on his own merits and speed with last year's GP23, and that "Martinator" would not do so even after four seasons on the Desmosedici, the 26-year-old Spaniard therefore got serious and switched to Aprilia Racing for two years as Aleix Espargaró's successor.

Like Aleix Espargaró, Jorge Martin is also managed by Albert Valera, who negotiated the lucrative Ducati deal for Jorge Lorenzo in 2017 and 2018 (€25 million for two years) and has made a name for himself in the industry as a skilled weaver of threads. Thanks to the negotiation for Aleix Espargaró, he has long been a good and reliable acquaintance of Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola.

The decision of runner-up Martin recently gave momentum to the transfer activity, as Marc Márquez was officially named as Lenovo team rider and Enea Bastianini took the place of the exceptionally talented Pedro Acosta at GASGAS Tech3.

However, Jorge Martin's return to KTM was never seriously taken into consideration.

The Madrid native, who dominated the Moto3 World Championship with Gresini-Honda in 2018, had made himself unpopular with Pierer Mobility at KTM during the 2020 season.

The talented Jorge Martin had ridden his only season in Moto2 with the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, and had fought for the world title, winning the important Austrian GP for KTM and then in Valencia.

In the summer, Jorge was still one of the title contenders before having to take a break due to a Covid infection and dropping to fourth place.

Meanwhile, he had already signed a Ducati MotoGP contract with Pramac for 2021.

KTM wanted to honour the option on him at the end of June 2020 and sign him for Team Tech3 KTM MotoGP 2021.

However, Albert Valera had insisted on a contract clause that read: if at the end of June KTM does not have a rider in the top ten of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship, Jorge Martin can look for another MotoGP team.

The catch in the story: Due to the Covid pandemic, the 2020 season did not start until July 19 in Jerez.

Valera was of the opinion that Martin could say goodbye to KTM because the Austrians were unable to produce a rider in the top ten in the World Championship.

KTM Motorsport director Pit Beirer then replied, "But we don't even have a rider outside the top ten. Because we haven't had a race yet, so there is no championship ranking. Unfortunately, the rider and the manager didn't trust us and so they chose the emergency exit."

After some back-and-forth, KTM did not want to keep Martin on board, as he was intent on leaving. For a penalty/tipping fee of 40,000 euros, he was given the green light to go to Pramac Ducati.

"Martinator" had already been considered by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer and Motorsport Director Pit Beirer as the preferred candidate for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship at the 2018 Valencia GP, when the Austrians had tried to convince him to take Johann Zarco's place in the four-pronged KTM MotoGP attack in 2020. However, Martin and his manager Albert Valera (who also managed Jorge Lorenzo) wanted to win the Moto2 World Championship before switching classes in 2020.

"We are not very enthusiastic about this manager's approach," Pit Beirer indignantly declared at the time. "Because at the end of the day, we are funding the whole Moto2 project to have riders in our group who will move to MotoGP as soon as they are ready."

So the bridges between Jorge Martin and KTM were torn down four years ago - the porcelain vase had shattered.

This was Beirer's declaration: "If someone leaves us hanging in the coronavirus period, we will think twice if we want that rider back in the family sooner or later."

Red Bull KTM then joined MotoGP in 2021 with Binder and Oliveira in the Factory Team, while Tech3 signed Petrucci and at the last moment Iker Lecuona.

Jorge Martin and Albert Valera had already turned down KTM CEO Stefan Pierer and Pit Beirer at the 2018 Valencia GP, when the Austrian manufacturer wanted to move the outstanding rider directly from Moto3 to MotoGP after winning the Moto3 title (with seven wins that season), because one of KTM's four MotoGP seats was vacant after the departure of Johann Zarco. But Martin wanted to win the 2020 Moto2 World Championship first. Benefiting from the situation was, precisely, Iker Lecuona.

After all, Jorge Martin not only raced for Red Bull KTM in 2020, but also in the Rookies Cup: 2nd place overall behind Karel Hanika in 2013, overall victory ahead of Stefano Manzi in 2014.

At the time, the anger of KTM executives over Jorge Martin's departure was understandable. First, an undisputed talent had been lost, and second, the in-house "MotoGP Academy" with the Ajo, Poncharal, Aspar Martinez, and Liqui Moly Husqvarna teams is funded with a lot of money to raise talented young MotoGP riders in-house, and not for the competition, which is only sporadically represented in the smaller GP classes.


Translated by Julian Thomas

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