Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager Mike Leitner has confirmed Pol Espargaro has received an offer to become Marc Marquez’ teammate in the Repsol Honda garage in 2021. The Austrian, speaking exclusively to motogp.com, revealed that the Spaniard is currently weighing up whether to remain with KTM or make the move to HRC.
"I can just confirm that these talks are going on,” said Leitner when asked to comment on Pol’s possible switch to Repsol Honda. “Of course, we will try to keep Pol with us, but we know very clearly that there is another option for him. There’s no update at the moment other than that and when everything is finalised, we’ll make a comment regarding that. This will for sure happen in the next few weeks. We need time to plan for the future, so we need a decision soon.
"At the moment, of course, we first have to wait and see what the final outcome will be with Pol’s situation but, for sure, in parallel, we must also think about our future. So, there are some scenarios on the table for us and we can only go step by step and, finally, we will start to know what decisions to take when things are decided."
If Espargaro were to leave KTM, it would mean they have two rookies and one sophomore on their books: Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder and Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Iker Lecuona, plus Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). But a severe lack of premier class experience left by Espargaro’s departure doesn’t concern Leitner.
"Especially at the beginning when we came to MotoGP in 2017 it was very important [to have some experience in the team]. Now, the bike already has a level so we can see with Brad Binder, for example, he was in the top ten in Qatar and at the winter test in Sepang we had three riders in the top ten. So, it’s very important to have an experienced rider but when the bike is competitive it’s less and less important to have a very experienced rider; but it always helps."
The Austrian wouldn’t be drawn on any potential replacements for the former Moto2™ World Champion. Current Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci have been linked with the seat, but Leitner is confident whoever KTM puts on their factory RC16 will be able to adapt: "All the riders in MotoGP are very talented riders. But for Andrea [Dovizioso], I don’t have to say anything about him, he’s three-time runner-up in the last three years. Also, Petrucci is a Grand Prix winner. All of these top riders have a huge talent and they will adapt to the bike, this is clear."
Meanwhile, despite KTM’s Moto2™ star Jorge Martin being closely linked, and in some quarters said to have signed a deal with Ducati, Leitner insists that the 2018 Moto3™ World Champion is still in the Austrian factory’s plans for the future.
"Jorge is, of course, one of the next talented riders to join the grid. We have a history with him already and we would like to keep him in our group. It depends on the current situation, but we have to start at the top. So, what happens with Pol and then we can think what is next and next."