Following KTM's virtual MotoGP team launch, motorsport director Pit Beirer met with the media via video call to face questions on the season ahead.

Top of the list, unsurprisingly, was the factory's surprise decision to replace factory team manager Mike Leitner with Francesco Guidotti, formerly of Pramac Ducati.

Beirer had worked with Leitner since starting to assemble the KTM MotoGP project for its 2017 debut, with the Austrian - a former Repsol Honda crew chief with Dani Pedrosa - directly overseeing three of the factory's five wins, including both 2021 victories.

But after the highs of 2020 when KTM won three races, took eight podiums, fourth in the constructors' standings and fifth in the riders' championship, the 2021 season saw the factory step back in each of those metrics.

Perhaps of biggest concern was that no KTM rider finished inside the top six during half of the 18 rounds, including the last six events in a row.

The most notable change for 2021 was the loss of technical concessions, which Beirer confirmed played a significant role in the decision to re-organise the KTM structure, stripping development work away from the race team and bringing in Guidotti for the revised management role.

"Most of your follow very closely how we've built up the project and also how close I was personally with Mike," Beirer began.

"From where we started [with the MotoGP project], we had to create a new workshop, build trucks, build bikes, hire staff, riders, do everything, influence bike development, test team. There were so many things to do.

"Step-by-step all these segments got more stable, more professional. But last year I know we still developed the motorcycle at the races.

"That also had a reason because we lost concessions, so that changed definitely our life a lot, because before when something was ready, you took your best rider to a track and went testing. Now we had also this [ban on private testing] which made it a bit more difficult.

"So we carried on again testing at the races, but at the end I think now it's the moment for the project to make another step and really give all this test work to the test team.

"I mean, we have I would say the best, fantastic test rider in the world with Dani [Pedrosa] so we have this crew ready and Dani and Mika [Kallio] together as a test team they need to have this pre-work together with the factory.

"We really have split now the bike development responsibilities at home in the factory with the test team and the race team should race."

Beirer added: "We have to analyse every year where we are and how we can build up the project.

"We have five GP wins on the project. It's something crazy what we've achieved. But then we saw, 'OK, now we are starting to make somewhere the same mistakes at the same moment, and we are not making logical steps forward'.

"So that's why we said, 'let's look a bit more from the outside, what's the next logical step?'. Then this decision we took maybe two months before the end of the season together with Mike, that we are going to have a real, supporting team manager at the race track.

"That's where Francesco comes into his perfect role because we need to manage the race team as other guys do and try to make the maximum out of the race weekend for the riders and the bike performance and stop testing on Friday morning.

"We have a long-term friendship with Francesco, and we just picked it up. We had very brief talks at the very last race, and then things went quite quickly.

"But the change was already in our mind before, this was agreed also with Mike and we just didn't have the right person. I'm really happy to have Francesco back in KTM [after working for the factory in 125 and 250cc] because there was always a link which we never broke in all these years."

Although taking over the 'team manager' title, Guidotti will have a much narrower role than Leitner.

"Mike did much more than a team manager was doing," Beirer said. "Then he got some pressure and some criticism for things that were not the job of the team manager. So he was deeply involved in everything.

"Mike is still under contract with us [as a consultant], and walking in and out at KTM. But with way less pressure than he had and he put a lot of load on himself to bring the project where it is, and we are extremely thankful for all he did for us.

"But definitely he is out of the daily racing thing, because with the new organisation, the boys also really need room to make a change. It would be really tough to make a restart if there would be something too much from our old style."

Although Beirer was at pains to avoid any direct criticism of Leitner, he made clear Guidotti's focus will be on the human performance side of the team.

"Francesco will need to really take care of the human power of the team, and make sure that we are one at the race track, and that we don't get stuck with, let's say, the top management of the team in a technical discussion on Friday and Saturday evening, we need the team manager to be there with the riders.

"And we're also going to have Dani [Pedrosa] with us at the races quite often. We really want to take care of the riders and their needs, and manage them. Of course I expect the same from Francesco as what most other team managers are doing in the GP paddock… But definitely, first priority, happy riders.

"Not by telling everything 'yes, yes, you're good and we have no problems', we need to always be super honest. And these technical discussions will not stop. But it should not be that, for example, the crew chief and the best technicians and the team manager are talking about the bike right after maybe the rider would need some help, and some small things.

"So, managing the team. And before, we were definitely managing still a lot on the bike side and testing too much. So Francesco is clearly not there to be our main technician, he is there to take care of all our people on the race track."

Headlining the technical side is another former senior member of the Ducati MotoGP project, Fabiano Sterlacchini, who joined KTM during last season.

"Fabiano is now the clear leader from the technical side, but the orchestra was already there, we have all these fantastic guys who have proven that they can build a winning machine with the five wins," Beirer said.

"So it's not that Fabiano is coming to teach us how to walk, but I think he is an engineer with the racing skills, and it's always important to have people – he's not the only one, we have quite a few people - who understand both sides, what a race team needs to perform on a race track, and what the engineers and the whole group at home need to do.

"And he will coordinate that. He will bring his experience and I'm really really positively impressed after seven months working with him, with what he brings to the table. He's a good guy, and he will be a good partner for the race track.

"In the beginning he will be a lot at the race track and a lot in the factory, so he's also ready to put in a lot of effort. It's part of the big motivation boost that we have right now, that there is another strong guy coming into the group.

"I feel confident to say now we are ready to make the split [between race team and development team] and let [Sterlacchini] and Sebastian Risse - who is our technical leader on the race track - decide in the background, 'OK, this is something we can bring to the riders, this will not distract them from performing normally'.

"But we need to have that discussion at home with our engineers, and improve or change before we bring it to the track. So if you look at the total workload, we will do the same as before, but take some work from here to there, and restructure the whole project to put the right people in the right positions."

Guidotti is already in Malaysia for his first event in charge of the factory KTM race team, during the Sepang Shakedown and Official MotoGP tests.