MotoGP Star Brad Binder (KTM) with his huge highsider on the 2nd weekend of Jerez 2020. He is often presented as a model example of the in-house youth program, this is one of the typical KTM and Red Bull label frauds (© MotoGP).

About the sense and nonsense of youth programs

When browsing through our almost inexhaustible archive, we repeatedly come across interesting content that makes you think. This article is about a case of self-promotion by a manufacturer under the guise of supposedly exemplary youth programs using the example of the Austrian company KTM. As is well known, the oranges very often praise themselves for their commitment through Red Bull-financed and influenced media such as Servus TV, the MotoGP broadcaster for german speaking countries. For years, attempts have been made to sell failures like good performances in this way. But here are two examples that show how their promotion of young talent clearly turned out to be a pure waste of money. Every MotoGP fan knows the more prominent one.

Brad Binder (KTM) – the surprise winner of the Czech Grand Prix in Brno benefited enormously from early tests by his manufacturer on this track in close cooperation with Michelin. At the beginning of his career, the South African sometimes ate very hard bread (© MotoGP).

The prime example of a misjudgment – Brad Binder

Anyone who deals intensively with the careers of past and present world-class drivers quickly realizes that not all of them had it really easy on their way. Pilots from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa often faced classically difficult conditions. Nevertheless, there were a lot of extremely successful drivers from there, and Binder can definitely be counted among them by now. By 2020 at the latest, this became finally clear to the public, when he immediately achieved what neither Pol Espargaró, Troy Bayliss or Fabio Quartararo did. Even if KTM was extremely advantageous in Brno, thanks to in-depth knowledge of the new Michelin tires in connection with the special route. At some point this will be forgotten and all that counts is Binder’s first win as a rookie for KTM at the Masaryk Ring.

Johann Zarco 2020 in Brno, after his sensational 3rd place on the previous year’s Ducati GP-19 for the Esponsorama Reale Avintia Team. As the best Ducati rider, not even a bump from Pol Espargaró and an undeserved longlap penalty kept him from the podium. His result was the real surprise in the Czech Republic, while the KTM victory for many observers was primarily the result of their test advantage (© MotoGP).

When Binder fell through in the KTM junior program
The prime example of how wrong the KTM experts sometimes were without a doubt is Brad Binder. There is a Red Bull documentary about Binder that is very illuminating on this point. KTM Moto3 and 2 team boss Aki Ajo and Rookies Cup coach Gustl Auinger said in unison in the interview that the South African’s talent could not have been recognized during his Red Bull KTM Rookie Cup time. The fact is rather that the two former racing drivers who are considered experts were meant by “one” and were wrong about him at the time. Binder fell out of the “KTM family” and his career almost came to an end.

Did you recognize two young Spaniards at the beginning of their racing careers whose origins could hardly be more different? Right – on the left, jeweler son Tito Rabat and next to him a shy son of a truck driver named Marquez. The latter is fortunate enough to grow up in the El Dorado of MotoGP, which has been dominated by Spain for many years. Otherwise, his career would have been almost unthinkable (© MotoGP).

Without the family, things would have ended for Binder after 2010
A father like Marc Marquez’s as a truck driver would not have been able to help Brad back then. But his parents were able to do so. It was they who provided the necessary means to enable him to continue his dream. The rest of the story is known, after that the South African drove “on his own account” for a long time.

Brad Binder’s Grand Prix years with the “gap” from 2011 to 2014, when Brad had to cope on his own without help from KTM, was a tough time for the South African.

The return to oranges came very late
Binder was only signed by KTM 4 years later, after he had achieved two podium places in 2014. The years before, team boss Aki Ajo and the former GP racing driver Gustl “Tut-anch” Auinger were terribly wrong about him. Brad Binder, of all people, became the 2016 Moto3 World Champion for KTM and was the first rider to win a MotoGP race for the Oranges. Of course, there were also successful Rookies Cup drivers like Zarco right away, but at Binder of all places the system had completely failed at his time.

Johann Zarco in his crash at the Sachsenring Grand Prix – after only half a season, the Frenchman voluntarily left his two-year contract with KTM. Presumably it was precisely this low blow for the Austrians that shook them so awake that they were able to close the gap to the top in the end. Not only Zarco, but also Oliveira and Syahrin had no chance at MotoGP in 2019 and Pol Espargaró missed the top ten 3 years in a row (© MotoGP).

Prime example of a pure waste of money

Have you ever heard of the KTM European Junior Cup? If not, this is not an educational gap, even for racing fans. The KTM Duke 690 is an almost perfect supermoto bike. Anyone who wants to race on back roads in the Black Forest through southwest Germany or over passes, for example, knows almost no opponent with this bike. But the author of this article knows what he is talking about or writing about, he has already ridden almost everything that has 2 wheels and for sure often close enough to the limit. The fact that a junior cup with this bike was held in the framework program of the WorldSBK, for example on routes such as the Masaryk Ring, borders on stupidity.

Our shot of the WorldSSP 300 driver presentation in Aragon 2019 with a lot of KTM orange and the reigning world champion Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki) as third from the right. On the far right the German Jan-Ole Jahnig (Freudenberg Racing KTM), who will have to stay at home in 2021 because KTM is hardly taking care of the near-series junior World Cup. The Austrian company put money into completely pointless projects, like the following example occupied.

The KTM Duke 690 – a top bike, but not for GP racetracks
This single cylinder bike is simply unsuitable for permanent racetracks. Nevertheless, KTM launched a junior series on completely unsuitable tracks. In contrast to bikes like a Yamaha R3, the benefit for the rider for a later career was almost zero. We recently held the program for the WSBK event in 2012 in hand. Below is the list of drivers, we did not find any footprints in any major series of them in later years.

About the sense and nonsense of youth programs

The KTM Duke 690 Europa Cup was undoubtedly a good instrument for the Austrian brand to get their bikes out there. But one can at least argue about the usefulness of the “European Junior Cup” from back then. A look at our ever-growing rich history of earlier years of racing shows that it has always been possible without such programs. But we are not the only ones who think very highly of really useful programs like the Yamaha BluCru Cup on R3 motorcycles. It is also absolutely legitimate for manufacturers to use this youth development scheme to search for talent in order to then commit them to their own teams.

The Yamaha R3 of the Viñales Racing Team of the WorldSSP 300, newly founded by the father of MotoGP rider Maverick. Exemplary support from Yamaha despite its own BluCru R3 Cup junior series. With this, the Japanese show how consistent commitment in the young generation should look (© WorldSBK).

“Ready to Race” with severe restrictions
KTM learned something new later and with the RC 390R brought a suitable bike to offer a suitable bike for near-series supersport events and even in the WSSP 300. But the fate of the Freudenberg Racing Team and Kiefer Racing show that the oranges always focus on their own interests. While Kiefer disappeared completely, the Freudenberg team from Saxony was only able to name one more drivers for 2021 instead of the previous year. In Moto2, the KTM slogan “Ready to Race” even became “Ready to retire” in mid-2019, when the oranges completely unexpectedly drew their tails in the middle series. Shortly before that, their representatives had praised themselves for their exemplary concept for the next generation. Yamaha and Kawasaki are currently the clear role models when it comes to really serious, long-term and serious commitment.