Bradley Smith can finally sleep easily after KTM confirmed it will not tinker with its current rider line-up for the 2018 MotoGP season.

The Englishman will continue in his position as Pol Espargaro’s team-mate in the Austrian factory’s two rider assault in 2018, KTM’s second in the premier class as an official factory entry.

The announcement means Mika Kallio will stay on as the factory test rider, a position he has occupied for the past two years, and will contest “selected wildcard rides” through the year.

Although Smith is in the first of a two-year deal with KTM, doubts were cast on his future after Kallio’s impressive wildcard outings at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and Aragon.

On Both occasions the Finn placed well ahead of Smith, leading factory bosses to change his crew chief (Tom Jojic was out, Esteban Garcia, formerly working with Kallio, came in) for the British Grand Prix, and call for an improvement in his results.

At Aragon rumours abounded linking Kallio to Smith’s seat for ’18, with the Finn making no secret of his desire to return to racing full-time.

“First of all, I had these two races – Germany and Austria – and after Austria we thought we could also come here,” he said. “Now that we did it, so I believe this is the last one for this season. Hopefully next year we can do something more.”

But the Austrian factory has ended the near relentless speculation surrounding its rider line-up for ’18, with a factory statement reading, “KTM have supported Bradley Smith from the very first test on the KTM RC16MotoGP bike in Valencia 2016.

“He has fitted into the team well and has worked hard at every test, practice and race as a new motorcycle is developed with new parts coming into the garage for every race. The team want to confirm that 2018 will remain as committed to Smith as before as we both look forward to bettering results and lap times.

“He is a Grand Prix winner and a podium man over the three classes of Grand Prix racing he’s contested, something that KTM wish to repeat with an orange motorcycle underneath him.”

On Kallio, the statement read, “Mika Kallio will remain as the team’s test rider for 2018 with selected wildcard rides for the Finn. He has been a huge part of the progress of the MotoGP project through his vast experience in Grand Prix that go back 17 years, knowledge that has been a major factor in the project exceeding the initial expectations for 2017. KTM look forward to Kallio’s ongoing speed and support so the motorcycle can jump forward to the next step in 2018 and beyond.

“His three races so far this year have been some of the most impressive for a wildcard in recent times with his commitment and speed, something that KTM look forward to seeing again at the season final in Valencia in a month’s time.”



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