Britain’s Bradley Smith has announced he is to join KTM next year to spearhead the Austrian manufacturer’s move into MotoGP.
Smith, who recently announced his Tech 3 team would not be extending his contract into 2017 and 2018, made the move public during an interview with BT Sport ahead of the opening race in Qatar.
The 25-year-old has been with the non-works Yamaha team in MotoGP since 2013, and was desperate for a move to a Factory team. With Rossi announcing he’d signed for Yamaha for the next two years, Smith saw his options limited to either Suzuki or KTM, and decided to opt for the orange outfit.
KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer said: “By signing Bradley Smith as factory rider for two years, we can now take the next step in the long journey to MotoGP. He was clearly the best rider among all the customer teams.”
The new KTM RC16 bike is due to be publicly unveiled at the Austrian Grand Prix in mid-August, and will make its racing debut at the season finale in Valencia.
Now that Smith has made his move, the rumour mill is working over time about who goes where in 2017/2018. Alex Rins is hot favourite to take the seat, although Johan Zarco is also thought to be a strong contender, even though the paddock chatter suggests he’s signed an agreement to race for Suzuki.