MotoGP sporting director Carlos Ezpeleta has ruled out the possibility of expanding the championship’s grid for 2024.
This idea was floated as a way to resolve all KTM rider issues and possibly pave the way for an unprecedented manufacturer switch given Valentino Rossi switched to Yamaha by giving the struggling Marc Marquez a new route.
Senior Dorna executive Ezpeleta made it clear in an interview with Radio Catalunya that Dorna’s objective was to reduce MotoGP bike entries rather than put in more currently.
“That there will be more than 22 bikes next year is not planned,” Ezpeleta said. “In fact, for us, the ideal number is 20.”
It has long been speculated that KTM’s parent company, Pierer Mobility Group might increase the total number of its existing four-bike MotoGP project by 50%.
The group now runs the Tech3 Gas Gas-branded bikes of Pol Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez and the Red Bull-sponsored KTM machines of Brad Binder and Jack Miller. Initially, it was thought that KTM was considering adding more bikes, perhaps under the Husqvarna brand.
Theoretically, there is room on the grid for that as well with the current 22-machine lineup being two short of last year’s due to Suzuki’s shocking exit.
Two grid spaces were left behind, presumably reserved only for a completely new manufacturer (in which no one is interested), and offering them to a satellite team as an alternative is a suggestion that the other independent teams are rumored to be cautious of as it would dilute their finances.
When Marc Marquez’s contract expires next year, KTM already had the possibility of making a move for him, but after recent comments from him and his Repsol Honda team suggesting that they might be willing to end their current agreement at the end of 2023 a year early, the likelihood of snagging him for 2024 became more likely – even though KTM has publicly denied it would try to.
However, it will be difficult to fit the riders KTM currently has into four spots, even without Marquez.
Nevertheless, that was seen as less of a concern in this case than it may have been because the affluent KTM group was more than capable of self-financing, especially when supported by Red Bull’s power as well. This was especially true given the opportunity to simultaneously fix several of their imminent problems.
In an attempt to lure Marquez who got away from its grasp in the junior ranks, KTM may be desperate to win back the Repsol Honda rider, but it also wants to stop Pedro Acosta from becoming the next MotoGP prodigy and suffering the same fate.
Acosta is set to go up to MotoGP next year, with or without KTM, so it has a dilemma with two strong factory riders and a hotshot rookie at Tech3 in Augusto Fernandez, who lives up to desired results.
So, until Ezpeleta made it plain that it wasn’t happening, the prospect of adding two extra bikes seemed like the ideal remedy for KTM’s problems.
However he acknowledged Dorna would like to get Acosta into MotoGP as quickly as possible but he claimed KTM was responsible for making that happen.
“From what I understand, we will like to have Pedro in MotoGP, but then there there are some talks from Pedro with his team and his manufacturer,” said Ezpeleta.
However, it’s more likely that the other teams in the series, rather than Dorna are the ones holding up a grid extension.
It’s not surprising that adding another KTM group team to suit Marquez currently appears to be difficult for 2024 because each factory has its own veto vote over any regulation changes.
Ducati, for example, may be particularly interested in ensuring that Marquez stays on an inferior Honda.