The Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad heads to the 2019 MotoGP finale at Valencia with mixed emotions as it gives an early welcome to Iker Lecuona alongside a final farewell to Hafizh Syahrin.

With Miguel Oliveira out injured having undergone shoulder surgery, Lecuona has been released by his Moto2 squad American Racing to join Tech3 early, having signed a deal to step up to MotoGP with the French squad for 2020, meaning the Spanish rider will make his premier class debut earlier than planned this weekend.

On the other side of the Tech3 garage, Syahrin will make his final appearance for the team as he leaves at the end of this season after two years together. The Malaysian rider heads back to Moto2 for 2020 with the Angel Nieto squad.

Ahead of an unusual race weekend, Tech3 team manager Herve Poncharal reflects on its maiden season with KTM and is keen to see Oliveira join the team in the end of season celebrations along with Lecuona and Syahrin.

“It seems like it was just yesterday when we started our first test with the KTM,” Poncharal said. “It’s been a short, but interesting journey and clearly, we feel very sad and sorry, to not have Miguel with us, because we started this adventure together and went through many things during this year.

“It’s not a good feeling, but hopefully he will be physically present, although we would prefer to have him on the bike. Having said that, this weekend is going to be an exciting one, especially for Red Bull KTM Tech3, because it will be the very last race in the MotoGP category for Hafizh with us, after we spent two years together, had some very good moments and spent some real great time, plus having a lot of fun together.

“Plus, it’s going to be very interesting, because we will have a rookie with us. With just 19 years of age Iker is going to jump on the bike for the very first time during the official Free Practice 1.

“It’s a little bit unusual, but once we learned that Miguel will be out of action and knowing, that Iker will be with us next year, we’ve been thinking to provide him an extra test, so there’s absolutely zero pressure on Iker’s shoulders and hopefully, we can start working well and have more experience, when we properly start the 2020 season with the test in Valencia on Tuesday.

“So, there are plenty of things to do, it will be quite emotional, as people are leaving, which is sad, but at the same time people are joining, which is exciting.”

With the opportunity of a free hit on his MotoGP debut, Lecuona wants to use the Valencia round as an early learning experience without thinking about results before starting a rigorous winter testing programme to be up to speed for 2020.

“It’s a great possibility for me to test the KTM RC16 for the first time during the last weekend of the 2019 season, before I enter the category full time next year. My goal is to enjoy the Valencia GP and learn as much as possible,” Lecuona said.

Emotions will be running high for Syahrin as he says goodbye to “my second family” and hopes for a strong send off to cap a difficult campaign trying to adjust to the KTM.

“This is going to be my last round with the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team, which has been my second family these last years, plus it will be my last race in the MotoGP class for the moment,” Syahrin said. “I will do my best and want to enjoy the whole weekend.

“It’s going to be a tough round, especially emotional, therefore I really want to do well in order to say goodbye with a positive feeling. I truly hope we can do well and I will try everything to make it happen.”

Oliveira and Lecuona will form Tech3’s rider line-up for 2020 with Brad Binder making his MotoGP debut at the factory KTM squad alongside Pol Espargaro after Johann Zarco split from the Austrian manufacturer.

In last year’s wet Valencia MotoGP, Espargaro stunned to take KTM’s maiden premier class podium with third place.

 

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