KTM will do everything in its power to wrestle the 2018 Moto3 crown out of Honda’s grasp after enduring “a disaster” of a season, according to Motorsport Director Pit Beirer.

The factory that won Moto3 rider’s titles in 2012, ’13 and ’16 registered just one race win from 18 outings in a largely underwhelming 2017, a year in which several of its rising stars repeatedly failed to deliver.

Beirer admitted KTM’s road racing efforts had been stretched by commitments in other grand prix classes; namely its costly MotoGP programme, which employs former Moto3 personnel like engine guru Sebastian Risse. “The best people I had for Moto3, they are now in MotoGP,” said Beirer.

While success was not apparent in the final championship standings - Honda riders occupied the first seven places - names like Marcos Ramirez, Gabriel Rodrigo, Darryn Binder and Juanfran Guevara often featured toward the front of races, showing the ’17 machine was not a million miles away.

Thus Beirer has declared that grand prix’s junior category “is very high on our list” for 2018, with the Austrian factory also pledging to alter its strategy in terms of team support and rider placement.

When, at the end last season, it was put to Beirer that KTM had to close a small gap to Honda in Moto3, the German quipped, “First of all, thank you. You are very gentle when you say, ‘We have to close a small gap [to Honda].’ We have to close a huge gap; it’s a disaster! I don’t want to hide that. If we paid somewhere the bill for MotoGP, maybe it was Moto3. It was too much load on the road race department.

“The best people I had for Moto3, they are involved now in MotoGP, or they helped me create [the] MotoGP [project]. So they could not really focus on their main class, so maybe we lost some little percentage there. On the other side also, it’s not fair to load it on the riders, but sometimes the rider is that little bit extra," he said.

“Altogether, we lose quite many races this year against Honda, but also in many races we are at the finish line less than two seconds behind the winner. How do tell if it’s a bad rider, a bad bike, a bad team or whatever if, after 20 laps, you are two seconds behind the winner? It’s so close but the little extra is missing.

“Moto3 is very high on our list for next year. We are really pushing hard to find that small percentage to be there again, back in the game. To lose a couple of races is OK, but to be many times not even on the podium is not really satisfying. We are not happy about that.”

The issue, Beirer feels, was not entirely technical; it stemmed more from how it structured support to its teams. In the past, Aki Ajo’s Red Bull outfit had acted as an unofficial ‘factory’ team.

With several of the customer squads lacking the gravitas of the factory-backed outfit, KTM found it difficult to retain several star names, such as last year’s eventual champion Joan Mir, who jumped ship to Honda in the winter of ’16.

Therefore, Ajo’s team will no longer run as the ‘factory’ team in ‘18, with KTM instead choosing to replicate Honda’s strategy of spreading its support across all of the nine teams running Austrian machinery on this year’s grid.

“We saw that we have not a real technical problem, but also we struggled to have the right riders on our bike at the moment. If you just work with one team you support strongly – not technical-wise, because the rules are so tough, there is no meaning for a factory team.

“A factory team can’t have one bolt better than the others, because of the regulations. It’s psychological and financial support that you can give, but not technical support. But then we left these other teams in their customer roles and whatever they did we supported them.

“You find out that they hire riders that bring money. But they are not going after the best talent. At the end of the day, if you want to win against a strong Honda project in Moto3, we have to take influence on the riders.”

What’s more, management found it tough to stomach the fact many of its primary rivals in Moto3 had graduated through its own Red Bull Rookies programme. Three of the 2017 championship’s top five - Mir, Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio – were former graduates of the Rookies Cup.

It remains a goal for Beirer to see a former Red Bull Rookie graduate through KTM’s considerable grand prix programme to claim a seat in the factory’s MotoGP team. KTM will therefore take “direct influence” when selecting Red Bull Rookies for Moto3 in the future.

“Our target now is to keep rookies within the KTM group now. We financed their entry into the GP paddock with the [Red Bull] Rookies Cup, we lose them and then two years they beat us on a Honda. That’s not really fun for me. Also of course, we have always been happy when a rookie found a place in another team.

“It’s not so easy to finance them [for a place] in a team. There is not always a KTM space for them. But now we really work more to support more these teams. If they take rookies, we take some direct influence.

“If a top rookie comes into a team, he brings some support from KTM into a team, so the support is not linked to ‘I’m the best team with the nicest name and nicest umbrella girls.’ Our support is absolutely linked to the rookie they take.

“If a top rookie is coming out of the Rookies Cup, he is taking a package into the team. That’s how we place all the rookies now in different KTM teams. That will not pay back for us in the first year, but in two or three years time the target is to have more rookies on KTM bikes.

“We will need more top Moto3 guys on Moto2 bikes to really get this programme rolling, that one day we will have a rookie on a MotoGP bike; that’s still a target.”

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