After the weekend they just had, everyone involved in the KTM grand prix racing program could be forgiven for wanting to take this week off. Unfortunately, they probably are too busy to even consider it.
News broke on multiple fronts for the Austrian company during its home round at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria this weekend. The biggest of all came last: That two-time Moto2 champion Johann Zarco, hired away from the Tech3 Yamaha team last year with high hopes, will be leaving the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team at the end of this season, canceling the second year of a two-year contract after having been completely unable to adapt to the very different KTM RC16.
It's easy to read a jab at Zarco by KTM in the official news release: "Zarco tried to adapt his riding style to the KTM RC16 and the team tried relentlessly to mould the #5 machine to the Frenchman’s wishes and requirements while teammate Pol Espargaró made regular Q2 qualification appearances and persistently vied for top ten positions." Note that Zarco "tried" and the team "tried relentlessly" while Espargaró actually made progress. I see.
KTM also had happier news during the weekend, as Brad Binder won the Moto2 race, leading virtually the entire way as several contenders pushed him from behind (most of them crashing out of the race). It was a perfect way for Binder to celebrate his birthday and it gave KTM a needed win in the Moto2 class. Though all Moto2 bikes are powerd by Triumph engines, there are a variety of chassis in use. Binder is in seventh place in the Moto2 standings and the only rider on a KTM in the top 10. It hasn't been KTM's greatest moment in racing.
That leads to more KTM news announced over the weekend. Don't bother promoting Binder's win too much because KTM is pulling out of Moto2 next year to focus its efforts on MotoGP and Moto3. Also, that new Moto3 bike for 2020 will be branded Husqvarna, not KTM.
One other bright spot this weekend was Miguel Oliveira's eighth place finish for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team. Is the Portuguese rider building a case for getting Zarco's seat on the factory team? It's hard to say how it will all sort out, because nearly the entire MotoGP grid is signed for two-year contracts extending through next year.
And where will Zarco go? Considering he has struggled to crack the top 10 this year on the KTM, it's easy to forget that he was one of the most highly touted riders in MotoGP just a year and a half ago. Now, his options are limited.
Oh, and by the way, if that's not enough news, KTM and Dorna Sports announced that KTM had signed an agreement committing to another five years in MotoGP. I don't think anyone doubted that KTM was all in on this grand prix racing bet it made, but if there had been any question, it was erased.
So, no time for holiday, lads, despite the exhaustion of an overload weekend. There's some big decisions to be made in Mattighofen.