Round one of the 2023 MotoGP world championship at the Algarve International Circuit this weekend will accelerate the prospects of the KTM GP Academy. Red Bull KTM Ajo and Red Bull KTM Tech3 will field two young riders each from three different countries in the Moto3™ category as the company’s race talent program continues at pace. Red Bull KTM Ajo meanwhile will hope to make 2023 a third straight title winning campaign in Moto2™. The next phase of development for all six athletes will roar ahead at the Grande Premio de Portugal in just a few days.
The KTM GP Academy has maintained its progressive work with four of the six racers in the group, while welcoming two new faces into the Grand Prix line-up. Each rider will be searching for the results and education that will propel them onto the next steps of their career, whether in Moto3, Moto2 or with designs on the premier class: MotoGP. KTM are one of the only brands to offer a unique pathway from filter series’ like the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and FIM JuniorGP through the GP divisions and up to full factory status.
In Moto3 Red Bull KTM Ajo will be represented by Deniz Öncü (19 years old from Turkey, three full seasons in Moto3, all with KTM and with six podiums to his name and 5th position in the 2022 championship) alongside Jose Rueda (17, 2022 JuniorGP champion and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion). The squad, as ever, will be overseen by Aki Ajo, who boasts an unrivalled track record for spotting and honing world championship-winning pedigree.
Red Bull KTM Tech3 will also run the KTM RC4s as Hervé Poncharal’s outfit guide the ability of Daniel Holgado (17, from Spain, second year in Moto3 and holder of one podium finish and one Pole Position) and Italian rookie Filippo Farioli (17, with one GP appearance and a 2022 race winner in JuniorGP).
Both teams helped KTM secure 10 visits to the rostrum in 2022 and have similar lofty goals for the imminent 21-round campaign.
Red Bull KTM Ajo could be eying even more glory with their Moto2 roster. 2021 Moto3 World Champion and 2022 Moto2 Rookie of the Year Pedro Acosta is tipped as a title contender for what will be only his second year in the intermediate class. Acosta, who won three Grands Prix and finished 5th in the standings (despite missing two races due to injury), has been topping the time sheets in pre-season testing. The 18-year-old Spaniard is to be partnered by countryman Albert Arenas. The 2020 Moto3 world champion, 26 years of age, enters his third Moto2 campaign. Arenas was in podium form during large parts of 2022 and has already started the year in fine speed and with plenty of potential.
Deniz Öncü, Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3: “I spent the winter riding a lot of supermoto and enduro and then we were finally able to get testing at Jerez and then Portimao. We had some productive sessions and it helped create a good feeling because I’m in good shape and working well with the team. There is only one thing to do: get the setting as perfect as possible! My goal is to fight for the championship and to continue to develop. I’m really working for this and have been building up for three years now. The change to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team will help me a lot also. I know it will not be easy for me because of my size and my weight in this class but we still have the potential to win this championship, so, why not?”
Jose Rueda, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Moto3: “I am very happy with the work we have done in pre-season. I am still adapting to the new bike and the team but we have made some important steps with testing, especially in Portimao where we have focused our work for the start of the year. My goal in 2023 is to learn and gain experience but of course we also want to be as competitive as possible. This is a great opportunity for me and I want to do my best.”
Pedro Acosta, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Moto2: “The pre-season has gone pretty well. Last year we adapted quite fast to Moto2 but there was a lot to learn and mistakes to get rid of! Now we have put our focus on a better year. We have tried lots of things for the bike and for finding the best set-up for 2023 and I think we are ready to go. We will see what we can fight for!”
Albert Arenas, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Moto2: “It’s been very nice to start working with this team, put my head down and try to get ready for this new – long – season! There will be many races and we’ll have to go round-by-round to reach our maximum potential as soon as possible. My goal is to fight for the top positions but I want to keep my feet on the ground and make that first podium. I want consistency and to keep improving with the team.”
Aki Ajo, Team Principal, Red Bull KTM Ajo: “I am satisfied with our pre-season, the team and the riders have worked very hard. In Portimao we made progress every day, especially the last day, when it was not so windy. Both Deniz and José Antonio are new to the team and I think these five days - plus the time we had in November- went really well. We feel ready for the beginning of the season. We also had a good testing program with our Moto2 riders. Pedro is starting his third season with the team, so he was focused on different things than in recent years. It’s his second year in Moto2, he had made many steps forward and progressed. His speed and pace are really strong. With Albert we also started in November, so we had many days to get out in track and try many new things. He has shown good speed and I have to say that his progress is very positive. He is part of the team and he is ready for the first race in Portimao.”
Daniel Holgado, Red Bull KTM Tech3: “I’m ready to start the season! It has been a busy winter with a lot of training and cycling and I’m clear with my goals. I want to be fighting for the podium and taking regular top five results. I believe this is possible because my first feelings with the 2023 bike in Jerez were really good. I’m excited for Portugal.”
Filippo Farioli, Red Bull KTM Tech3: “I’m really happy with my preparation for this season. We’ve worked a lot and trained a lot. It’s my first world championship year so of course I’m excited. All I can do is give my best and aim to be rookie of the year, that’s my goal, and maybe we will see with the team how we improve and what other results we can take. I’m really happy also with the team because we tested well at Jerez and we knew exactly where we have to head with the bike. This is really important.”
Hervé Poncharal, Team Principal, Red Bull KTM Tech3: “Here at Red Bull KTM Tech3 we are proud to be another year in the KTM GP Academy. Our Moto3 team only had one day of testing at Jerez due to bad weather but we could see that Daniel is strong and confident for his second year in Moto3 and should be a title contender. He has impressed all of us through his attitude and his dedication and you can see that he learned a lot last year. On the other side of the other garage Filippo is a total rookie but very likeable and full of life and with a positive outlook. You can also see that he has learned a lot in his racing career so far and already comes across as very professional in the way he works. Filippo is not a guy you have to push, you have to hold him back. The speed is there, he just needs to learn the world of Moto3 and the incredible level in this series. We’re happy and ready to race.”
Jens Hainbach, KTM Head of Motorsports Road: “Putting the puzzle pieces together for the KTM GP Academy each year is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. We watch, talk, evaluate and decide and see where we can spot and help the riders that are determined to make the grade in the elite. It’s a project that is geared to allow the best talent on the best bike and in two of the best teams in the paddock to show their possibilities. With the passion and experience of Aki Ajo and Hervé Poncharal we could not have two better collaborators, and their teams are geared to success both for results and for progression. We believe in the many merits of both Moto3 and Moto2 and support the new eighteen-year age ruling for 2023. It will be a thrilling year and we wish a safe and fantastic season for all the guys wearing our colors.”