KTM has signed Bradley Smith to lead its 2017 MotoGP project.

The Englishman has been a Tech 3 Yamaha rider since joining the premier-class in 2013, rising to sixth and top satelitte rider in last year's world championship, claiming his second MotoGP podium in the process.

On the eve of this weekend's Qatar season-opener Smith revealed there would not be a place for him at Tech 3 next season, as Yamaha looks to develop new young stars for the future.

Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal later played down talk that Smith or team-mate Pol Espargaro were definitely out, but the 25-year-old had probably already made up his mind to join the Austrian manufacturer.

Smith has signed a two-year deal to race the new RC16, currently being track tested by the likes of Randy de Puniet, Mika Kallio and Alex Hofmann.

Motorsport Director Pit Beirer declared: "The MotoGP project is running exactly according to plan. Both the engineers at the factory and the test team are achieving highly professional work with two bikes and their test riders.

"By signing Bradley Smith as factory rider for two years we can now take the next step in the long journey to MotoGP.

"At just 25, Bradley is competing in his fourth season in the premier-class. He rode his way to second place in Misano and last season as overall sixth, he was clearly the best rider among all the customer teams."

Smith is the second 2017 signing to be announced this weekend, following Saturday's news that Valentino Rossi will stay at Movistar Yamaha.

KTM - Honda's main rival in the Moto3 class - will join Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia in MotoGP next season.