KTM to inherit potential vacant Suzuki entry slots for third MotoGP team?

KTM hints it could put in a bid to assume any vacant MotoGP entry slots left by Suzuki should the Japanese firm confirm its exit at the end of 2022

Jake Dixon - GASGAS Moto2

KTM boss Pie Beirer has indicated the Austrian manufacturer could move to take over the MotoGP entry slots that will be left vacant by Suzuki should the manufacturer. 

Yes, why not? Before we lose good riders, we prefer to make a third MotoGP team. We are now one year further with our MotoGP project, we are in a stable position. Everything is possible from there,” Pit Beirer, KTM's motorsport director, told SPEEDWEEK.com.

The Japanese firm - World Champions in 2020 with Joan Mir - is under the spotlight amid widespread speculation it is on the cusp of announcing its withdrawal from the premier class at the end of the season.

With media reports suggesting the announcement will be made at some stage this week, if confirmed it will represent the second time in a decade Suzuki has ducked out of MotoGP unexpectedly having left the series in 2011 before returning in 2014.

The decision is made all the more surprising by Suzuki’s recent commitment to MotoGP until the end of the 2026 season with Dorna stating it will be prepared to seek compensation for breach of contract.

Regardless, it means two grid slots will become available for the 2023 MotoGP season with speculation already pointing towards Aprilia potentially expanding its efforts to run a satellite team, bringing it into line with its four manufacturer rivals.

Alternatively, KTM is already expressing its interest in the two slots as part of a third team using its RC16 machinery but doing so under one of its associated sub-brands, most likely GASGAS.

KTM has been using Grand Prix racing to promote the Spanish company on a global scale since its assumed ownership of GASGAS in 2019. After a successful race-winning debut in Moto3, GASGAS is also enjoying success in Moto2 this season in collaboration with former privateer MotoGP outfit Aspar.

With this in mind, an Asper-prepared GASGAS MotoGP team entering a pair of rebranded KTM RC16s would represent an experienced set-up that would allow the Austrian firm to expand its rider programme to place the likes of Pedro Acosta, Jake Dixon and Jaume Masia in the top class more easily.

“Yes, why not - before we lose good riders, we prefer to make a third MotoGP team,” KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer told Speedweek. 

“We are now one year further with our MotoGP project, we are in a stable position. Everything is possible from there.”

Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro - Aprilia Racing

Which manufacturers could take over from Suzuki in MotoGP?

KTM’s desire to expand to a third team has been motivated by Dorna allowing Ducati to swell to four teams and eight bikes, an impact that will be felt more keenly in 2023 in Suzuki’s absence.

As well as giving KTM more options to foster its young talent in Moto2 and Moto3, a third team could allow it chance to make a bid for 2020 World Champion Joan Mir and three-time race winner Alex Rins. 

However, KTM could be forced to push back such a plan until 2024 at the earliest, though Dorna could prioritise Aprilia to ensure all remaining manufacturers on the grid are represented by a sister satellite effort.

Alternatively, Dorna might be prepared to change the terms of the 2022-2026 manufacturer contract to allow a privateer effort - such as Leopard Racing - to compete in a similar capacity to the departed Avintia Racing effort.

Less likely, however, is the prospect of a new manufacturer assuming Suzuki’s spot with the best-resourced non-MotoGP firms - BMW and Kawasaki - indicating no desire to make the move, while MV Agusta - which has hinted at a future entry - is currently in no financial position to form a factory effort at such short notice.