KTM is the dominant brand in offroad motorsport and in January won its 16th consecutive Dakar Rally with British rider Sam Sunderland on the KTM 450 RALLY. Now, together with main sponsor Red Bull, the company goes in an entirely new direction in road racing to begin contesting the elite class of the MotoGP World Championship.
Stefan Pierer (KTM CEO): "Why MotoGP? Well, this came to us from the market. Three years ago we overtook our competitor BMW in terms of sales, and we became the third biggest manufacturer of sports motorcycles in the world. Hubert Trunkenpolz (KTM CSO), said: ‘Now we have to go to MotoGP, and I will support you with additional sales.' I talked to Pit, and he set up a perfect program. His priority was to set up the infrastructure here with all the know-how, and all the people. I think it's the benchmark worldwide and with this three-year program we did our homework and now it's getting real."
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director): "We are very experienced in racing but of course to enter at this level of MotoGP is another dimension for our whole company. But we love pressure because we are racers, so it’s nothing special for us to handle. Of course the last weeks and months have been an adventure and a huge effort by the whole company, so I have to say thank you to our board and Mr. Pierer for putting their trust in us so we should prepare to enter MotoGP. All this would not have been possible without all the other disciplines we raced before. For us, it is a dream come true. We have built up young riders in all the disciplines, and we stick with them, through good times and bad. It was sad that we nurtured many good young riders in the Red Bull Rookies who could go to Moto3 but then it was somehow horrible to lose them in Moto2. Just imagine what it would have been like to have a world champion like Brad Binder having to leave us. Now we are doing Moto2 we have closed the gap, so our kids can stay with us through their whole career and all the classes."
Thomas Überall (Red Bull Motorsport Manager): "Yes for us Heinz Kinigadner is the probably the reason that we are here. He was one of the first athletes I met when I started at Red Bull, and he was also the one who brought me into this KTM family. Now after all the success and with Pit joining the Motorsport Department in 2007, everything moved a step higher, and we started to win in Offroad, and in the US and everywhere. Then with Moto3, it was a big jump into road racing. It was clear for us as an Austrian company and one with such a long history with KTM that we had to join this project from day one. We're looking forward to the same success as in offroad, and naturally also to win the MotoGP title very soon."
Mike Leitner (MotoGP Team Manager): “First, I’m super happy to see that. All the company worked like crazy so we would be able to have a moment like this to start the project. To be fair, what we have seen since Sepang is very nice. We had some issues after Valencia. We tried to fix them, and the designers and everyone in the company worked very hard, we went in the right direction and I think the riders feel the same. But there are many challenges. The most important thing is that we keep the two boys (Smith and Espargaro) motivated and that we can deliver what they feel is good for the lap times and with their feeling on the bike. I think that’s our main goal and everyone here is working to achieve that."
Pol Espargaro (MotoGP Factory Rider): “It’s beautiful, and riding the bike is beautiful. It feels really good. KTM is very new in MotoGP compared to the other brands. We are making huge steps forward,