Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have announced they will retain Mika Kallio as a test rider for the 2019 season, continuing their working relationship for a fourth consecutive year as they further the RC16's development.
The Finn remains sidelined for the rest of this season after injuring his right knee ligaments at the Sachsenring, with Randy De Puniet taking the reins as stand-in test rider until the end of the current campaign. However, the former Grand Prix race winner is recovering well: “I’m doing well with my recovery, and the programme is laid out so I will hopefully be 100% by the time we need to start work for 2019. I’m ahead of schedule but there are also days where I make progress and sometimes when it doesn't feel like much, so it is day-by-day. I’m wearing a splint to protect the knee from bad torsion and I’m working hard on mobility and building up the muscle around the joint again. I have been cycling and can walk without crutches although it is still too early for me to try the bike.
“It’s great to stay with KTM. We’ve made some good gains with the RC16 and I think you can see that through the race times in 2018. It will be exciting to see how much further we can keep moving closer to that lead group.”
The 35-year-old joins Jonas Folger and current KTM teammate Bradley Smith as confirmed 2019 test riders. After a year away from the sport, Folger will join Yamaha as their official European-based test rider, with Smith moving to Aprilia to help develop the RS-GP next season.
However, one of the big question marks is whether or not current Repsol Honda Team rider Dani Pedrosa will take up a testing role with KTM next season, alongside Kallio. The Spaniard announced he will retire from Grand Prix racing at the end of this season, but rumours of the three-time World Champion teaming up with KTM next year have gathered pace.
In addition, current HRC test rider Stefan Bradl has yet to be confirmed with the Japanese factory to continue in his role next year, with Sylvain Guintoli’s future as a Suzuki test rider also unconfirmed.