After six years, twelve race victories and 33 podium finishes, Mika Kallio will say goodbye to KTM after Sunday's season-ending 250cc grand prix at Valencia.

The 25-year-old Finn will graduate to the premier MotoGP class next season, having signed to ride a satellite spec Ducati, alongside fellow rookie Niccolo Canepa, for Pramac Racing.

"Mika has been under our wings from the beginnings of his grand prix career. We've moved up through the ranks as a team and celebrated our first victories together. We fought for the world titles in both the 125cc and 250cc class and it was a great and exciting time," said KTM CEO Stefan Pierer.

"Mika is an outstanding talent in this sport and we always said that we would support him all the way, not only with our bikes but also once he found a good opportunity to move to the MotoGP category. The time has now come. It will be exciting to watch him racing in the future and we all wish him the best of luck."

Racing in MotoGP is every rider's dream, but Kallio did not take his decision lightly.

"The MotoGP class is the ultimate challenge, and I took this chance after talking to my team and to KTM, and after carefully considering all options. We've won many races, we've been serious title contenders in both the 125 and the 250 class and there is not much more I would be able to prove if I hung in for another year," said Kallio. "I will always remember the great times we had together and our early success when we surprised the paddock and the fans in both categories."

After making his full time grand prix debut in 2002 on a Red Devil backed Honda, Kallio spit from the Ajo Motorsports team midway through 2003 and joined KTM, where the three-time Finnish 125cc champion rode on after a practice crash at Brno to claim fourth place in his first ever race for the Austrian manufacturer despite a badly damaged left little finger. Kallio then celebrated second place and his first podium finish for KTM just four races later in Malaysia.

Kallio's first full season yielded just one podium, but made a dramatic leap forward in 2005 and 2006 - taking seven race wins from 21 podiums and finishing second in the world championship to Thomas Luthi (2005) and then Alvaro Bautista (2006).

"It's a bit sad that we couldn't win the title, but to be in second place twice is also a very good result," said Kallio. "The title fights were very close, especially in 2005. I have very good memories of that time, especially from my first victory in Portugal when I won on the last straight by just eight thousandths of a second."

Kallio then moved to the 250 class in 2007.

"Of course I had to learn a lot and we were not fully competitive straight away," said Mika. "But I knew what to expect right from the first test in Valencia at the end of the 2006 season. Even though my new bike was so much stronger with double the capacity and horsepower, it still felt like a KTM and it was still my bike!"

Harald Bartol, Team Director and constructor of the bikes, always insisted that a good 125cc rider wouldn't need much time to adjust to a 250. Kallio was proof of that, needing just ten races to claim his first podium - at the German GP - while the highlight of his rookie year a debut quarter-litre victory in Japan, his third successive victory at Motegi .

"We had won there in 2005 and 2006 with the 125 bike, and to return in my 250 rookie year and win again was just awesome," said Kallio.

Kallio took his second 250cc victory at the last race of the season in Valencia and started into the 2008 season with a bang. He scored four podium finishes and two race wins in the first four races of the season and led the title fight until mid-season, when he was demoted by eventual champion Marco Simoncelli and then Alvaro Bautista.

Nevertheless, it was an impressive effort for a bike only three years old, compared with the development history of Aprilia/Gilera, which spans more than two decades.

Kallio insists that the trust and friendship built up during his time at KTM will last a lifetime.

"The magic behind our success is mutual trust. My team knows that I give 100 per cent all the time, and I know the same about my team," he said. "I know that I can rely on the team's decisions whenever I go out on the track. And even if something goes wrong on a particular race track, I know that Harald will be back in his workshop and work without rest until he finds the solution to the problem.

"This sort of trust is one of the reasons why I continued with KTM year after year," Kallio revealed. "My relationship with Harald and the other engineers in the team is much more than just technical. We are friends - and we will also remain friends in the future!"

KTM is withdrawing from 250cc after Valencia and will concentrate back on the 125cc class in 2009. The 250cc class will be replaced by 600cc four-strokes from 2011.

The future of Kallio's team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama, KTM's first 250GP race winner, is unconfirmed.



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