In what will be the 69th F.I.M. Road Racing World Championship season, KTM join the series with a factory-supported team for the first time.
The Austrian manufacturer originally announced its MotoGP programme back in 2014. Since then they have conducted a number of private tests at a number of different venues to hone its new machine, the RC16.
KTM actually debuted in the final round of the 2016 season in Valencia with Mika Kallio riding but the Finn failed to finish the race. KTM will be hoping for better luck in the opening race of 2017 and during the season in general. Kallio has been retained by the team as a test driver.
Riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are both jumping ship from Tech 3 Yamaha to join the KTM team for the 2017 season as their main drivers.
Pol Espargaro finished in a respectable 8th position in the 2016 championship as a Yamaha rider, whilst Bradley Smith finished down in 17th position in the overall standings. Whilst this wouldn’t fulfil punters with the greatest confidence, you’d be daft to write them off completely. It’ll be interesting to see how the bookies react to KTM’s involvement, and whether the odds and bonuses offered are reflective of their likely competition to Marc Marquez and the like.
The 2017 MotoGP seasons with the Grand Prix of Qatar on 26 March before the 18th and final round taking place in Valencia, known as the Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana on 12 November.
Marc Marquez will start the season as defending World Champion, having secured his fifth overall back in October, with his fifth victory of the season coming in Japan. The Spaniard who rides for Honda won the championship with three rounds to spare.