KTM continued to hog the headlines at Jerez, with news that Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira will move up to MotoGP next year, as the first rider to sign up for new KTM satellite team Tech 3.
The news broke before lunch on Saturday, and with Zarco joining Pol Espargaro in the factory team leaves just one seat in the satellite team, which has been promised full factory support and identical machines.
Said Oliveira, in an official statement, “It is very early in the season but I am really happy that KTM have seen enough from this year and the last to trust me. And believe I deserve this opportunity in MotoGP.”
The 23-year-old will be the first Portuguese rider in the premier class, and the first to demonstrate KTM’s career ladder though the classes.
Motorsports Director Pit Beirer said: “This is an emotional step for us because it proves all what we have said about building a structure in this paddock and being able to come from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, go through the classes with us and end up in a MotoGP team.”
Oliveira brings a growing reputation. He gave Mahindra its first podiums in Moto3, then switched to KTM and ran Danny Kent very close in the 2015 Moto3 championship. Last year, his second in Moto2, he won the last three races to finish third overall.
Team owner Herve Poncharal confirmed that Oliveira will inherit Zarco’s full pit crew, led by legendary spanner-man and Tech 3 co-founder Guy Coulon.
The decision means dwindling hopes for current KTM factory teamster Bradley Smith. Smith rode a Yamaha for Tech 3 between 2013 and 2016, twice on the podium – but Poncharal has indicated he will be looking for a youngster for the second slot.
Tech 3 also confirmed that they plan to switch to KTM in Moto2 next year, after nine years of campaigning their own Mistral chassis.
By Michael Scott