Marc Marquez (Gresini Ducati) at the Grand Prix of Portugal – the exceptional talent impressively showed how much he can be expected on the Italian manufacturer’s private machine from last year in 2024. Almost all of his opponents unconditionally believed him to be able to do this in advance. But there were also skeptics before the start of the season and this article is about one of them and those around him.

Pit Beirer and his incorrect forecast at the start of the season

The man in the wheelchair is known for a number of sayings that have raised questions about his character and credibility in some places in the past. For many observers, what he said in interviews often sounded too much like self-praise. For example, when the Oranges joined Moto2, when they became the first manufacturer in all three classes of MotoGP for the 2017 season. When this announcement was made, the man from Radolfzell on Lake Constance made very full-bodied statements. Somehow some people had the impression that the sports director was firmly convinced that KTM was the only company in the entire paddock with the perfect strategy. He recently demonstrated very impressively how little the German, who comes from motocross, actually seems to understand about street racing. It’s about his statement before the start of the season in Qatar, about Marc Marquez’s move to Gresini Ducati and his prospects for the 2024 season.

Shortly before the Qatar Grand Prix, Beirer claimed in an interview that Marc Marquez would definitely need some time before he could keep up with the best of this brand with last year’s Ducati. Three races later, the Catalan sprayed champagne for the first time in 2024 as the best Ducati rider after P2 in Portugal.

Marquez, of all people, gave the lie to the KTM motorsport director

Of course, Pit Beirer was never considered a gifted strategist in the paddock and, to his chagrin, he promptly went too far out of the window with his prediction before the start of the season. Ironically, last year KTM boss Pierer, of all people, was very interested in the world’s best rider of modern times. But when asked about it in a recent interview, his employee was very reserved about this and only said that his team had excellent pilots themselves, which is why he hardly sees a future for the number 93 with the Orange. Apparently, the former motocross rider, who was runner-up in the 250cc world championship title in 1999, often has his own ideas. Against this background, however, many observers are wondering whether he shouldn’t listen more often to his boss, who appears to be much more clever strategically. Without the crash in the Portuguese Grand Prix, which was no fault of his own, Marquez would already be ahead of all the KTM pilots on the private Gresini Ducati after round two of this season. But an action by Bagnaia that seemed brainless to many observers thwarted the exceptional talent’s fourth top-five result in a row.

Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) as the initial leader in the sprint race in Portugal – the Australian has never achieved more than fourth place since joining MotoGP in 2016. That’s why many were surprised when the Orange signed him for 2023. After all, KTM wanted to fight for the title from 2020 at the latest, but this has clearly been missed in the last four years.

A lack of expertise is standard at KTM under Beirer

The Man in the Wheelchair is known for some sayings that have raised questions about his character in some quarters. Very often, for some observers, what comes out of their lips in interviews sounds too much like self-praise. For example, when the Oranges joined Moto2, when he announced with much fanfare for the 2017 season that KTM was now entering the middle category with its own chassis. The oranges’ motorsport director made very full-bodied comments. Just two years later, before the Austrian GP, KTM meekly announced that they would be withdrawing their own chassis and switching to their competitor Kalex for their Moto2 team. Paradoxically, it was on Sunday that Brad Binder took his first win of the year on the KTM and ended up missing out on the Moto2 title by just a few points. However, the MotoGP season in 2019 was much worse for the oranges.

Pol Espargaró before the 2019 Austrian GP in Spielberg. The Catalan had anything but an easy time at KTM, after which he later moved to Repsol Honda. However, things got even worse for Aprilia ace Aleix’s brother there, whereupon he ruefully returned to GasGas-KTM. However, a serious accident on the first race weekend ultimately brought an early end to his career as a MotoGP regular driver, as KTM dropped him after 2023.

The MotoGP low point came with Johann Zarco

After two years in the premier class, the Orange signed the fast man from Cannes for the 2019 season. They also agreed on a contract as a customer team with his compatriot and previous team boss Hervé Poncharal. But Johann Zarco had previously been on a customer Yamaha for two years, with which he was immediately able to keep up with the world’s best in some races. The main reason for this was the excellent chassis, while the engine was never one of the most powerful units in MotoGP in terms of performance. The KTM, on the other hand, was more powerful, but with its much too stiff metal frame it was almost unrideable for a top rider like the Frenchman, which he complained about early on. The result of this were crashes and failures in the first races. His predecessor Bradley Smith had experienced a similar situation in the previous two years. He had finished in the top ten three times in his second season, but the Englishman also crashed far too often for it to have been enough for anything more than P18 in his “better” year in 2018.

Johann Zarco with his Red Bull KTM 2017 in the gravel trap of the Sachsenring. His second place on the Pramac-Ducati in the 2022 season impressively demonstrated that there was no lack of pilot back then. But the fast southern Frenchman fell on deaf ears as a KTM works rider from Pit Beirer and his people, which led to a falling out during his first season with the Orange.

The Frenchman’s “Lèse-Majesty” caused a scandal

Zarco’s criticism was poorly received by the Austrians and they apparently had their minds set on becoming successful with their own chassis and, instead of the usual Öhlins, components from the purchased company WP Suspension. The reason was often cited as being close to series production, although despite the orange painted frame, the V4 engine was never used by the Austrians at that time and to this day. The fact that even Pol Espargaró never got above fourteenth place in the World Cup in the first two years and, with the exception of the rainy World Cup final in 2018, never made it into the top ten was proof enough for Johann Zarco’s well-founded criticism of the chassis and the decisions his team. In addition, even his Spanish teammate did not make it into the top ten of the final rankings in his third year at KTM. The Frenchman had already had enough and asked the Austrians for an early release from his two-year contract as their factory driver before the home race. This “Lèse of Majesty” from the likeable two-time Moto2 World Champion caused a real scandal.

A delicate moment between two former teammates in the 2020 season between Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Ducati in the middle of the picture) and behind him Pol Espargaró (Red Bull KTM), who immediately afterwards collides with the Frenchman and falls due to his own fault.

A nasty mud fight cost KTM a lot of sympathy in 2019

His release from the San Marino Grand Prix was probably more of a relief for Zarco than an annoyance. However, the Oranges didn’t make any new friends with the fans or in the paddock afterwards with nasty swipes at the pitiful french rider. After the Frenchman’s voluntary departure, they publicly claimed several times that he had been fired, which was of course far from the truth. The fast man from Cannes switched to Ducati and gave his answer on the racetrack. In the third race of the 2020 season in the Czech Republic, he reached the podium on last year’s private Ducati, leaving his previous teammate Espargaró far behind. Even an unjustified long-lap penalty after a collision caused by the KTM pilot didn’t bother Zarco and the following year he was promoted to the Pramac Ducati team on factory machines.

Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati, left) in 2021 as second and his French compatriot Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Ducati) as winner of the second race in Losail (Qatar). The former KTM factory rider then traveled back to Europe as the World Championship leader and was supposed to finish the season in fifth place ahead of all KTM riders.

The goals set in the premier class have so far been missed by a long way

Given the many wrong decisions in the first few years, one need not be surprised that KTM has been unsuccessfully chasing the driver’s title that they are aiming for from 2020 for a long time. KTM boss Pierer had originally announced that after she joined in 2017, she wanted to have a say in the fight for the world championship title within three years at the latest. With the loss of Jorge Martin as a so-called “KTM homegrown”, sports director Pit Beirer and his people, along with Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez, have already lost several Grand Prix winners and hopeful MotoGP talents. To do this, they relied on two men in the factory team, Brad Binder and, since 2023, Jack Miller, who have so far failed to provide proof of the necessary consistency that is needed in the title fight, especially in the premier class. Frequent falls are the biggest obstacle and we saw too many of them last year for the South Africans (failed to finish four times in 2023) and Australians (5 Grand Prix and 1 sprint race not finished and only 11th place in the World Championships).

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) on his high in 2020 in Jerez de la Frontera. With 6th World Championship rankings in the 2021 and 2022 seasons and 4th in the previous year, the South African is currently the Orange’s figurehead. In the third race of this season he missed the checkered flag for the first time, which shouldn’t happen too often if he wants to have a serious say in the title this time.

Jack Miller’s signing – a management mistake?

It was before the start of the 2021 season when most so-called experts named “Jack-Ass” Miller as a new addition to the Ducati factory team alongside his new stablemate Bagnaia as the most hopeful title contender. We still remember today how we swam against the current when, in our preliminary report, completely different pilots were named as more promising before the start of the season. In any case, Johann Zarco left the double race in Qatar in the pandemic year as the World Championship leader and Jack Miller had to be content with two ninth places despite a lot of praise. A difficult third round followed with a crash in Portugal for the Australian before he won both Grand Prix in Jerez and Le Mans. Three good races followed with Mugello, Barcelona and the Sachsenring, after which the next setback followed with two crashes in Assen and on the first Spielberg weekend. In the end, the original from Down Under came fourth in the world championship and even fifth place the year after was not enough to receive a good offer from Ducati to continue his career. With that, KTM struck, but 11th place in the final standings in his first year for the Austrians leaves open the fear as to whether it will ultimately be a mistake by Pit Beirer and his people.

After the start of the Tissot Sprint Race of the second round in Portugal with Jack Miller (front left) as the leader at the start. In the end, however, it was only fifth place, while Brad Binder crashed with three laps to go. The South African came fourth directly ahead of the Australian in the Grand Prix the day after.

Numerous questionable decisions and the Martin debacle

The Tech 3 customer team’s results were sobering in the first year, before redemption came in 2020 with ninth place in the World Cup final thanks to Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese was then promoted to the Red Bull KTM factory team for the next season. He thanked him the following year with second place in Mugello, victory in Barcelona and another second place at the Sachsenring. But too many crashes and even two wins in 2022 weren’t enough to secure his place. The proud dentist from Almada rejected an offer to return to the Tech 3 customer team after Jack Miller was hired in his place for the Red Bull KTM factory team. Just like Tech 3 pilot Raul Fernandez, Oliveira moved to the Aprilia customer team. However, the debacle with Jorge Martin in 2020 was much worse for KTM. As a very successful pilot for the KTM Ajo Moto2 team, Pit Beirer wanted to put the Spaniard off for another season in the middle category. But he didn’t want to be satisfied with that and switched to Pramac Ducati, where he immediately became one of the fastest MotoGP pilots.

Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) between Maverick Viñales (Aprilia) and Marc Marquez (Gresini Ducati). The Spaniard with number 89 was Francesco Bagnaia’s strongest challenger as runner-up last year and is leading the championship again in 2024 after two victories in the first 4 races. The fast man from Madrid is definitely the most painful loss of the “KTM homegrown” after losing him to the competition due to a bad decision.

Failed strategy as one of the causes of many breakdowns

Actually, the idea of wanting to compete in all classes from 2017, which was publicly presented with a lot of self-praise, was not fundamentally wrong. According to Pit Beirer’s statement at the time, the aim was to introduce Moto3’s “home-grown” riders step by step into the higher classes so as not to have to poach other pilots from the competition or have to fight for talent on the open market. So much for the theory of the oranges, but it was apparently based on several errors in reasoning. On the one hand, like Ducati, KTM would need to have more than just two MotoGP teams, as has been the case since 2019, so that no established pilots there would suddenly have to be sacrificed. On the other hand, in the shark tank of MotoGP, the term “KTM family” is nothing but a naive idea. Therefore, the calculation rarely worked out for KTM, as with initially only one and currently two teams in MotoGP, there were too few places available for their own talents. So they lost Jorge Martin, sacrificed one after the other Oliveira, Raul Fernandez and, this season, even the long-time KTM figurehead Pol Espargaró.

Pol Espargaró 2022 as Repsol Honda factory rider – after problems in the HRC factory team, he returned to KTM and then became a pawn in their fear of not losing Pedro Acosta. He is the most tragic example to date of how quickly a rider can be cast out of the “KTM family”. Of course, the terrible accident at the start of the 2023 season was partly responsible for the year turning into the worst of his career.

The biggest hope besides Brad Binder – a rookie

Even though many fans certainly show sympathy for the former outsiders from Austria, the many management mistakes are difficult to gloss over. Everything clearly looks like there is a lack of expertise at KTM System, with their many hiccups and hotts decisions in recent years. Now, however, they have a new wonder boy in their stable with Pedro Acosta, who practically all experts and people who consider themselves connoisseurs consider to be the legitimate successor to the exceptional talent and 6-time MotoGP king Marc Marquez. In just his fourth MotoGP race, the newcomer met the high expectations placed on him and made it to the podium in the Portuguese GP. However, to be fair, it must be noted that the teenager benefited from the technical failure of Aprilia ace Maverick Viñales.

Pedro Acosta (GasGas KTM) – as the only rookie from 2024, the young Spaniard already surpassed himself on the second Grand Prix weekend in Portugal. He is currently considered the greatest hope for the future in the premier class, where a lot of things can often change quickly within fractions of a second.

Can Acosta live up to KTM expectations?

Whether the young man from Murcia will actually be able to outdo the fastest men like Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini, “Pecco” Bagnaia and Brad Binder is still up in the air at the moment. However, Fabio Quartararo, who is handicapped thanks to his currently weak Yamaha, and his new teammate Alex Rins, as well as Marco Bezzecchi and Repsol Honda newcomer Luca Marini (him and his teammate Mir, of course, still with the question mark of an improvement for the Japanese), should not be written off too early . And be careful: Marc Marquez should always be on your list! As long as he is healthy and his vehicle doesn’t let him down, the most successful pilot of today is by far a force that is difficult to defeat for any competitor. At the moment he doesn’t seem at all as if he wants to voluntarily make way for young challengers and soon there will be tracks on which he has been absolutely unbeatable for years. It starts with Austin in Texas, where the Catalan has an almost unbelievable record.

Our statistics for the US Grand Prix since 2005, which has been held in Austin (Texas) since 2013, actually only allow one favorite for the third round in 2024. Similar to the Sachsenring, the record of 8-time world champion Marc Marquez (including 6 times in MotoGP) looks simply overwhelming here.
Our summary of the current interim results in MotoGP after the first 2 rounds. Compared to 13 falls last year, as well as a few withdrawals due to injuries, there is fortunately little red in the game. Last year there were no less than 5 pilots with injuries on the second weekend, who therefore had to take a break for the second GP. These were Pol Espargaró, Joan Mir, Enea Bastianini, Miguel Oliveira and Marc Marquez.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© MotoGP).