KTM’s 2024 MotoGP rider logjam deepens ahead of Austrian GP
Current Moto2 championship leader Acosta is set to step up to the MotoGP world championship next year with KTM, though where remains a mystery.
KTM has four bikes spread across the factory team and the GasGas-branded Tech3 satellite squad, but all riders occupying those seats have contracts.
Both Brad Binder and Jack Miller are contracted to the factory team through the end of next year, while Tech3’s Espargaro penned a two-year deal upon his switch from Honda.
This originally left reigning Moto2 champion Augusto Fernandez as the likely rider to be moved aside to make space for Acosta, having only agreed a one-year deal.
But at the British Grand Prix earlier this month, he told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview that he had agreed to extend his deal with KTM to remain on the grid next season.
“You think about that and you’re worried, but now it’s done so super happy to stay here,” Fernandez said at Silverstone when asked by Motorsport.com about Acosta’s impending promotion.
“I’m happy to stay with the same people because this helps a lot.”
Augusto Fernandez, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Nothing has, as of yet, been announced regarding Fernandez’s renewal, though KTM CEO Stefan Pierer stated in an interview with Speedweek last month that the Spaniard would be staying.
Asked again about his 2024 situation on Thursday at the Austrian Grand Prix – where an announcement about Acosta’s future has been anticipated – Fernandez told Motorsport.com: “I have no idea [why my future hasn’t been announced], you’d have to ask them.
“I have a contract. We’ll see. We know how this world is, but I’ve been told and what we’ve signed is that next year I’m going to stay where I am.
“But I can’t say more, you have to ask them. In theory, I’m staying with this team and these colours, but we’ll see what happens.”
Despite signing a two-year contract with KTM, Pierer said last month to Speedweek that Espargaro would return for a second season “if he performs as expected”.
These comments have cast doubt on Espargaro’s future, who had been out with serious injury following a crash in FP2 in Portugal until last week’s British GP.
Asked by Motorsport.com about Pierer’s comments during the Silverstone weekend, Espargaro noted: “We’re all here, we need to perform, it’s not surprising.
Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing
Photo by: GasGas Factory Racing
“I’ve been in MotoGP already [almost] 10 years and I always have a clear idea that if I want to stay in MotoGP, I need to perform.
“It’s the only way, and especially in the situation I am that I come back from a huge injury and not racing so much, the doubts are there, for sure, but the doubts are there for everyone, me included.
“So, I’m the first one who wants to come back in my normal state. For sure I have for 2023 and 2024 signed a contract, but for sure I’m the first one that I want to perform and if not I will move apart.
“I love the factory, I’m one more rider of this factory but I really feel like I’m a part of it, I’m a part of this family, and I will not hesitate to move apart if there was an upgrade, because what I want is to see the factory shining.”
However, speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com on Thursday in Austria, Espargaro insists he is staying put for 2024.
“The rumours have always existed since I’ve been in MotoGP, but they don’t affect me, they’ve come out of nowhere because I’m signed this year and next year, I have two years,” he said.
“Within KTM, Brad, Jack and I have two years and Augusto has one. With this I am very calm, I will be in this team in 2024, and that will help me to grow.
Jack Miller, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Photo by: KTM Images
“The level of MotoGP right now is very high and you need a little bit of time and more after an injury.
“Rumours are the least important thing for me, rumours are just that, rumours. I have closed [the deal for] this year and next year.”
KTM has been exploring the option of adding a second satellite team to its roster for 2024, approaching LCR and Gresini.
LCR insists it will honour its contract with Honda for 2024, while Gresini has recently renewed its deal with Ducati.
KTM has been blocked from taking over the two grid slots vacated by Suzuki at the end of last year, as Dorna Sports is reserving these for a new factory entrant.
It has been rumoured for some time that a new KTM satellite team would field Acosta and Marc Marquez, as his struggles at Honda continue.
Additional reporting by Megan White