KTM, Tech3 merger could impact rising MotoGP stars

After an incredibly strong debut year in MotoGP, KTM will be partnering up with Tech3 from 2019, writes Jade du Preez. The Austrian manufacturer will be supplying the French team with machinery, which was an unexpected move from Tech3, who have had a long-running relationship with Yamaha.

KTM is a very strong choice, having supplied machinery for every winning Moto3 team since 2012, only coming second on one occasion. But they’ve only spent one year in the premier class, with riders like Pol Espargaro (who came 17th overall), Bradley Smith (who came 21st overall) and Mika Kallio (who came 24th overall) taking the KTM bikes out in 2017.

Not bad for a starting year, but such a change in machinery could result in teething problems for Tech3, as rising stars Johann Zarco and Hafizh Syahrin, who has made the jump up from Moto2, prepare for their 2018 seasons. Whether or not Jonas Folger will be well enough to race in 2019 is still unknown but he could be returning on a new KTM bike.

2017’s Rookie of the Year Zarco will be looking to continue his fine form into 2018 after a breakout 2017 season. This could be his last year of certain results, but that could change granted he will be taking his 2016 bike into the new season instead of switching to the newest bike available to him.

Zarco, the Yamaha satellite rider, is taking a risk by not upgrading his bike, but he did show real promise at the Sepang and Buriram tests. He’s already won two Moto2 seasons in 2015 and 2016; and finished in the top 10 overall in 2017, so his chances of another strong season could very well be on the cards.

Hafizh Syahrin will just be looking to get the most from his first season in the premier class, having become the first Malaysian to compete in the MotoGP category. The jump up from the support categories is never without obstacles, so expect his season to be bumpy. If he can keep out of the gravel traps and pull in a few points however, then his opening year will be a success for a new rider.

It’ll be his 2019 season that’ll remain in question. If he’s fit and well, will Tech3 opt to try and keep Folger again and make him bear the brunt of their teething problems after taking a year out, or will they keep Syahrin? Will Zarco stay at Tech3 at all, therefore making room for both Folger and Syahrin?

Folger’s health and Zarco’s patience with the new KTM bikes will be the deciding factors. If Zarco performs similarly to his 2017 season, then there is a chance that he’ll have the last say on which team he races with after 2018/2019. He’s clearly not afraid of taking risks, after taking an unorthodox choice of bike into the 2018 season, but whether he’d want to make such a drastic change by switching teams is not entirely out of the question.

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