Hiroshi Aoyama's pole position for Sunday's 250cc Malaysian Grand Prix provided a timely reminder of KTM's competiveness in the quarter-litre class - and prompted further explanation for the Austrian manufacturer's impending withdraw.

On the eve of this weekend's event KTM - which led the 2008 250cc World Championship with Mika Kallio until round ten - announced that it would withdraw from 250cc racing at the end of the year and concentrate its efforts solely on the 125cc class.

KTM explained that its departure was prompted by the decision to replace 250cc two-strokes with 600cc four-strokes from 2011. KTM technical director Harald Bartol has now revealed that the Austrian factory believed the 250cc class would remain in place until 2014.

"[Saturday's] 250cc practice session showed that we are on the right way with the development of our bike, and that we can be seriously competitive with our young project. It is sad for all of us that this has to come to an end," said Bartol.

"But at the same time, the decision is understandable considering the fact that the future of the 250cc category, which was supposed to live on until 2014 when KTM first joined [in 2005], was cut back to just two years.

"A longer period of time would have given our project more chance to succeed against an opponent with many years of valuable experience, and it would have given the company and our sponsors the exposure they deserve," he declared.

Whilst Kallio is heading for MotoGP with Alice Ducati next season, KTM's sudden decision to withdraw has left team-mate Aoyama out of a ride.

"I've been working with KTM for three years now, and it has been a very good experience for me," said the Japanese. "Together, we managed to improve the bike, we won races, and I believe we have been competitive despite Aprilia having so many more years of experience in this class. [in qualifying], we proved the performance of this bike once again, and it's a pity that we won't be able to run it in next year's world championship!"

Meanwhile, Bartol reiterated KTM's commitment to 125cc competition.

"Now we will concentrate all our efforts on the 125cc class, in a hard-fought category that is alive, healthy and with a longer future ahead," he said. "We will participate with three factory riders, and our goal is to further improve the performance of our bikes, and to be a force to be reckoned with when next season starts!"

Spanish youngster Marc Marquez and American Cameron Beaubier will be two of Red Bull KTM's factory 125cc riders in 2009.

KTM finished runner-up in the 125cc World Championship in both 2005 and 2006, with Kallio.