Pulpmx reader Paul Quesnel submitted this well written piece on the orange bikes.
Pulpmx reader Paul Quesnel submitted this well written piece on the orange bikes.
KTM Goes All In For 2012
By Paul Quesnel
Photos by James Lissimore
Austria has declared war on the world. They have been building up their arsenal and 2012 will be the year they strike. It’s not going to be easy, but it looks like they are willing to go to any length to achieve victory. In short, KTM wants to win…everything. The small Austrian based manufacturer is pulling out all the stops and planning a world-wide assault for the new-year. While they already have a strangle-hold on the Grand Prix’s, they are now unleashing their orange army on the United States and beyond. They have learned from the mistakes they made in the past and are now methodically setting their master plan into motion. Although they’re already the global leader in off road motorcycle sales, KTM is now more than ever turning their focus to the motocross market. Becoming the most renowned manufacturer in the world of moto is there goal and they are prepared to use any and all resources to get there. So will their non-compromise approach to racing help them become the most dominate force the world of motocross has ever seen? It might not happen in 2012, but if you look at what they have accomplished in the last five years, you have to think the future looks very bright for the orange outfit.
KTM’s recent domination of the GP scene can be attributed to the signing of one rider. Except this time, the rider had just retired, and his name was Stefan Everts. After winning his tenth title in ’06 and cementing his name as one of the Grand Prix legends right beside Robert and Decoster, Stefan retired from the sport and ironically became the team manager for the one manufacturer he had never ridden for, KTM. From there, he and Pit Beirer (KTM off-road director) came up with a four-year goal which included winning the MX1 and MX2 championships in the same season. In order to reach their goal, they knew that the infrastructure of the team as well as the development of the bikes would have to improve drastically. After the disastrous ’06 season with the struggling Tortelli and Pichon, KTM learned that they needed to have a solid base to their program and good equipment before they signed the big names. In turn, they built the team around young talented riders who could win in the MX2 class while they kept bettering their program as a whole. The ’08 and ’09 seasons would see KTM’s new found attitude and determination begin to pay off as both years they would go 1-2 in the MX2 championship standings. They were quickly becoming the almighty Pro Circuit of the MX2 class and everyone in the paddock began to notice that their program, as well as their equipment, was getting better every year. At the same time, they were also working on a new bike for the MX1 class that they felt would revolutionize the sport. In 2010, they finally felt they were ready to sign a top MX1 rider and who better then the defending champion in Antonio Cairoli. Aboard KTM’s new 350cc machine, Cairoli would convincingly defend his MX1 championship while Marvin Musquin captured his second straight MX2 title to complete the KTM resurgence. By basically dominating both classes, KTM had set themselves apart from all the other teams and manufactures. With great personnel like Everts and Beirer leading the team, they had reached the goals set out in their four-year plan and they were now the team that every rider desired to ride for. But this success was just the beginning for them as they would continue to set their eyes on the future and most notably the United States.
KTM USA took a huge step up with the hiring of Roger Decoster (R) and Ian Harrison last year.
Compared to the Japanese OEM’s, KTM has enjoyed minimal success here in America. With the release of their new 350 in 2010 also came a new campaign here in the states and the rider they chose to pilot their middleweight machine was none other than the former KTM rider of Mike Alessi. At the time, the decision to hire the #800 seemed practical since the Jagermeister sponsored KTM team was just focusing on the National series in ’10 and Mike has always been more of an outdoor specialist, but just like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’re going to get with the Alessi clan. At the opening round of the outdoor series, Mike would silence most skeptics of the 350 by getting one of his patented holeshots and sprinting away like the Alessi of old.Many thought Mike was going to start clicking off one moto win after another like he did pre-injury ’09 but it was not to be as the rest of the series would see Mike and his KTM struggle with mediocrity. The “best starter in the sport”, could not buy himself a holeshot for the rest of the season and his results would suffer as a result of having to continually come through the pack, something Alessi has rarely had to do throughout his career. With the lackluster performances from the 800 coinciding with the stellar results coming from Antonio Cairoli in the GP’s, many people were left questioning if the 350 was really a legitimate contender in America. Alessi would finish the series with a disappointing 5th overall in the standings but this would not deter the goal driven KTM team as they already had other prospects on the horizon.
A couple weeks after the outdoor series was completed, it was announced that longtime Suzuki team manager Roger Decoster was leaving the program he helped build to become the new team manager for the KTM/Red Bull team in 2011. It was almost a mirror image of ’06 when the struggling KTM team hired Stefan Everts to make their factory effort the most successful in the series. Also resembling that season was KTM’s decision to fine-tune their race program before going after a title contender in the 450 class. While Andrew Short is a top caliber rider and a stand-up guy in general, it’s not like anyone is expecting him to go win a title anytime soon. KTM signed Shorty because he’s known for being a good test rider (or at least better than Alessi) and he could help the team develop the new 350 for supercross. Originally, the two time MX2 champion of Marvin Musquin was supposed to be KTM’s ringer in the 250 class, but a torn ACL at Bercy would force the Frenchman to miss the entire SX series. Luckily for KTM, with the addition of Decoster also came the wonder kid himself, Ken Roczen. Like Decoster, Kenny also began losing faith in the future of the Suzuki race program and once he saw Roger jump ship, Kenny decided to follow suit and quickly signed with KTM.
No matter who is talking, they’re all saying that Ken Roczen is a future star for KTM.
Early in the 2011 supercross season, Mike Alessi would fail to make it into main events only to find himself later on struggling to keep himself inside the top ten. Even though Alessi has never been an indoor superstar, failing to make main events was well beneath his ability, leaving many people pointing the finger at the 350 as the reason. Shorty used his consistency to place 6th overall in the season standings which was good considering that top five were on a completely different level than anyone else in the class. Still though, the 350 just didn’t look as comfortable on the supercross track as it did cruising around the GP circuits and the public opinion of the bike here in the states would get worse as the season wore on. Ken Roczen surprised everyone with his blazing speed but had to learn that in order to succeed in supercross, he had to slow down in order to go faster. Even though it took the youngster until the end of the series to get his first win, everyone would agree that the newly crowned world champion has a very bright future here in America. The outdoor season would be a little more frustrating for KTM as Mike Alessi (now riding the carbureted 450) would miss the first couple rounds of the series after knocking himself out in a violent crash at Hangtown. Shorty would struggle to start at the front of the pack as we saw him do time and time again aboard his Honda in 2010 and consequently his results would continue to suffer. In the 250 class, just as Roczen and Herlings were sweeping almost every race in the World Championships, Marvin Musquin was sitting on the sidelines again after being clothes-lined off his steed by a pilot-less #17 bike at round two in Freestone. He would eventually regain his championship form by the end of the season and earn a couple podium finishes, but still the likable French import must have been disappointed with his first year in the states. Around the same time Musquin returned, Andrew Short would coincidently exit the series after breaking both arms while testing on a supercross track, putting a quick end to his year. Between all the injuries, the issues that came with introducing the 350 to supercross, and having to deal with always controversial Alessi family on a regular basis, KTM’s 2011 season here in the U.S. was pretty much a wash. They would not hang their heads for long though as once again they dominated the World Championships with Cairoli and Roczen and just as in 2010, they were already looking toward the future.
The signing of Ryan Dungey to KTM was finally announced a couple weeks after the Motocross Des Nations even though most people knew it was coming long in advance. From the moment Roger Decoster left Suzuki, people could smell trouble brewing and Dungey following his longtime mentor seemed almost inevitable. But Dungey’s two-year contract wasn’t the only big news coming from KTM for they also announced that they were coming out with a brand new 450 for the former American champion. Just as they did in Europe two years prior, KTM revamped their program, updated their equipment, and then signed one of the best riders in the sport. After minimal riding and testing with the bike, Ryan decided to race the Monster Energy Cup at the eleventh hour and even though he could not match Villopoto’s blistering pace, he was still able to impress the critics en route to his second place finish. Ryan Dungey will be the only 450 rider under the KTM U.S. tent in 2012 and for the 250 class; they will have the two world champions of Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen racing here full time. As long as everyone stays healthy and they keep the DNF’s to a minimum, KTM has a great shot at winning a title in 2012 here in the U.S.
If contending for more than one title in the United States wasn’t enough, KTM has one more thing hidden up its orange sleeve for 2012. With the Blackfoot Yamaha team calling it quits at the end of the 2011 season, KTM bounced on the opportunity to sign the defending Canadian national champion in Colton Facciotti. Also added to the Canadian KTM Red Bull team was the bridesmaid of the Canadian MX1 class, Dusty Klatt. With this 1-2 duo headlining the KTM MX1 squad, the team is looking forward to battling for moto wins and ultimately winning their first Canadian MX1 championship. They are also enthusiastic about their pursuit for the MX2 title with the re-signing of the very talented Jeremy Medaglia. In addition to the new riders, KTM has signed Jean-Sebastian Roy (five-time CMRC champion) to be the “athlete manager” for the team in 2012, the same title given to Stefan Everts in ’06 when he joined the KTM family. Finding legendary riders to mentor the riders and help build the race program seems to be a reoccurring theme with KTM recently. Will it work out in Canada like it has in Europe? It surely looks like it.
And now, a big step up for KTM in the signing of Ryan Dungey. Will it work?
In a time when other motorcycle companies may question their involvement in racing, KTM is doing the opposite and is reinforcing its commitment to winning. In Europe, they have a proven race program with the best bikes and very good personnel. But will they be able to continually dominate the GP’s while they send all their best riders to America? Will Cairoli be able to hold back the wolves in the MX1 class for another year? Will Herlings be consistent enough to beat out the likes of Searle and Osbourne to bring KTM its fifth straight MX2 title?
In 2010, KTM expressed their desire to strengthen its motocross efforts in America when they released the new generation SX model line of bikes and hired Roger Decoster, the most prolific team manager in motocross history. They have a brand new 450 that was developed specifically for American motocross and supercross and they have someone who will be a title contender in every series he competes in with Ryan Dungey. But will little time to test and develop the new 450 become a hurdle to big to overcome? Will 2012 serve plainly as a year for Ryan and the team to learn and get accustomed with the new bike? Will KTM Canada cash in on their sure bet and get their first MX1 championship? Will Austria get the improved global motocross sales they are striving for by winning titles here in America?
In the motocross community, KTM has always been like the odd kid in school that nobody wanted to play with and everyone made fun of. Will 2012 be the year that they take over the playground?