The last time a rider left the Red Bull KTM MotoGP team, the resulting reshuffle saw Tech3 lose out on rising star Brad Binder, destined for the French team but reassigned to fill the void left by Johann Zarco.

This time, the fallout from Pol Espargaro's 2021 exit has seen Tech3 chosen as the 'surprise' destination for KTM's first race-winning MotoGP championship signing; Danilo Petrucci.

While it was assumed Petrucci would be a straight swap for Espargaro at the Official team, KTM has opted to promote Miguel Oliveira from Tech3 to ride alongside Binder, while placing Petrucci with Iker Lecuona. All four will have factory-spec machinery.

It will be the first time since 2012, when Petrucci's current Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso rode for Tech3 Yamaha, that the French team has run a MotoGP winner - and the first time ever for KTM.

Petrucci has taken nine podiums since entering the premier-class in 2012, including an emotional home victory at Mugello last season.

"During this long wait before we could start racing again, we had to think together with the Red Bull KTM organisation about the 2021 line-up," Poncharal said. "We could see the leader, Pol Espargaro was leaving and since then we had a lot of meetings and finally, we are delighted to announce our decision.

"The Factory Team will be having their dream duo with Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder and clearly this will be a strong pair. They will carry the KTM flag high, I’m sure…

"Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s come to the big surprise: we will have the pleasure to welcome Mr. Danilo Petrucci with us from 2021.

"Danilo is a man, that I respect a lot. He is a man that is a ‘normal’ guy, who is always saying hello to everyone, who has a lot of charisma and a great sense of humour. On top of that – and maybe even more important – he is also a team player and a MotoGP winner.

"Never forget that he won the Mugello GP last year, which is such an important race for an Italian rider on an Italian bike, beating Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, which is not an easy task, but also finishing sixth in the World Championship.

"I think his experience and his knowledge will help our MotoGP project to grow and to move on. His always positive attitude and his will to share and to work with a team, which behaves like a family, is exactly what he will find in Tech3."

The Frenchman also believes placing Petrucci at Tech3 means the distinction between factory and satellite is no longer relevant.

"That the fact we have the most experienced rider out of the four inside our Tech3 organisation means that there is now no more satellite or factory team," he said.

"There are four factory Red Bull KTM riders on the grid with the same support, the same equipment and this is showing us the support that factory KTM is giving to the team, because this is not always the case with different manufacturers."

Poncharal is also very happy to see Lecuona being given a vote of confidence in the form of a new contract extension, despite only starting one MotoGP race, as a replacement for the injured Oliveira at Valencia last year.

"We can confirm today that Iker Lecuona, the youngest rider on the MotoGP grid at the moment, is going to be with us again in 2021," he said.

"We are all and I am personally very happy about that, because it was a big move from Iker to jump on a MotoGP bike, but unfortunately the sanitary situation didn’t give him a lot of chances yet to show what he can do during a MotoGP race, but it was clear from everybody, that we will give him another opportunity after the 2020 season to be with us in 2021.

"I see Iker as a potential leader in the MotoGP class in the near future."

Lecuona outqualified then team-mate Hafizh Syahrin at Valencia last season, only to fall in the race. The Spaniard was then ranked 20th (+1.443s) on the ultra-close timesheets at the end of pre-season testing in February, between Oliveira and reigning Moto2 champion Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda).

“I would like to truly thank Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the confidence they are placing in me for their 2021 project," Lecuona said. "I felt very good with the new RC16 from day one and the bike has really progressed from the configuration we used in the 2019 Valencia race.

"I think we can make some great races with this machine. Signing for 2021 gives me enough peace of mind to be able to fight for my goal of being Rookie of the Year. I feel like I'm in a great family here.”

 

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