KTM Motorsport director Pit Beirer has revealed the factory offered test rider Mika Kallio “a very respectful test rider contract” on top of a bonus to ensure the Finn remained in his current role for the 2018 season.

Kallio had been in the frame to dispossess KTM’s full-time rider Bradley Smith of his permanent seat on the MotoGP grid in the autumn of 2017 after eye-catching performances while wildcarding at the Red Bull Ring and Aragon.

Ultimately, the Englishman’s position on the ’18 grid was confirmed before the Japanese Grand Prix. His results immediately picked up too, with his best performance of the season coming at Phillip Island, where

While KTM management felt it would be wrong to replace Smith, who had shown a great deal of faith in the Austrian factory by signing at the beginning of 2016, there was also an acknowledgement that the current rider dynamic is ideal.

In Smith and Pol Espargaro, KTM has two riders that have a proven ability to finish inside the top ten. Furthermore, Kallio’s presence behind the scenes and as a wildcard rider is an ever-present reminder to never let up.

Had they put Kallio in Smith’s seat for ’18 for “the fantasy of a better result here or there”, Bierer feels KTM would have sacrificed a good deal in terms of development. That “wouldn’t make us better in the long term,” Beirer said.

“They can’t fall asleep if Mika is there,” said Beirer, speaking at the end of the 2017 season. “He puts the level straight away on the high level. But the combination is so great. It would not make us better to put Mika into the race team because Mika is a fundamental, key factor in where we are at the moment.

“He got from us a very respectful test rider contract for next year and let’s say a bonus for his work. We could not ask for a better test rider than himself and we didn’t know that before. But without him the project would not be on the same level. Just put him in the race team to get the fantasy of a better result here or there, wouldn’t make us better in the long term.

“So we need Mika as a strong test rider and with a high number of wildcards. I think we’re going to go close to the limit next year with five or six wildcards to have him often in the race. But these races will be a huge test for us because the test team is racing together with Mika. With this experience we’re going to develop the bike more.

“He will be a big part of our development programme and we need him in the test team in a strong performance. The race guys need to handle pressure from Mika once he’s there. But I feel Bradley became much better once he got the confirmation that he has that ride for 2018. For him the mental pressure was definitely too big.”

Commenting on the decision to stick with Smith as a race rider for 2018, Beirer continued: “When the riders signed for us [in 2016], there was a white piece of paper. They could not even look at the bike. So there was a risk for the riders coming from a very competitive bike to trust our project. Then it would also be not fair to drop a rider after halfway through the first season.

“We clearly decided to give him the time to develop. I know he is better than what he showed. Something was wrong, and not feeling good for him to perform like he should perform. Since the pressure went bigger and bigger, I just took the chance before the riders left to overseas to just confirm that we will stick to the contract, that he will have this ride, to take this huge load off his back.

“How can you perform if you come every week in the paddock and the first question is how many hours you still have in this team before they kick you out? So I just wanted to underline that. Give him the support overseas. We could already see just through that little confirmation a different rider.”

Kallio will make five wildcard appearances in 2018, and was entrusted to test some fairly radical new parts at Jerez last December, according to Pol Espargaro.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment

KTM better not fall asleep, else they'll lose Kallio to Tech 3.

Unless you're Michael Dunlop, contracts are legally binding.

Shame Aprilia didn't have the same approach to Lowes, might have got better results out of him.