Team KTM and Team Roberts acrimonious MotoGP split
By Mike Hanlon
August 20, 2005
August 21, 2005 Sadly, black litigious clouds have formed over the MotoGP paddock, specifically directly over the pits of KTM and Team KR, whose interpretations of what their relationship has been until now differ enormously. KTM announced a dissolution of the relationship on August 12, stating it was no longer intending to provide engines for the team’s grand prix effort and was cancelling all its activities with the team. Though it had been no secret that KTM was on the verge of pulling out for some time, Team Roberts has subsequently issued a statement refuting a number of KTM’s claims and claiming that it had been informed of the decision simultaneously with the public announcement. Read both parties' conflicting statements inside.
Team Roberts is now in its 20th year of Grand Prix racing, formed by one of MotoGP’s most popular and successful riders in history. Roberts broke the mould in Grand Prix racing which had been dominated by European riders from the beginning. He arrived in 1978 as a graduate of the American Dirt Track circuit’s school of hard knocks and immediately set the circuits alight with his spectacular sideways riding style, and can be regarded as the first of the new school of riders to “drift” a motorcycle under power.
Roberts style was aided by years of experience on the mile dirt track ovals of America where riders were accustomed to exiting turns at extreme speeds with the rear wheel searching for traction, plus the extreme power being developed by his Yamaha YZR500. The YZR was an in-line four producing no less than 120 horsepower and with a strong mid-range thanks to Yamaha’s YPVS powervalve system which raised and lowered the height of the two-stroke’s exhaust port and enabled the formerly peaky two-stroke engine to have a controllable and broad enough power surge to be able to control the spinning wheel sufficiently do have the rider purposefully “slide” under power. His sideways riding style was considered beyond radical at the time, but is now a prerequisite for competitiveness at the highest level.
His expertise as a development rider saw him quickly dial in his motorcycle to circuits he had never seen before and to the astonishment of the motorcycle world he won the World’s premier title at his first attempt, then in one of the most remarkable year’s in racing history he backed it up again in 1979 and 1980 despite BREAKING HIS BACK in a pre-season accident in January 1979. But despite winning the AMA’s Grand slam and three world titles, it was his expertise as a development rider and home-taught engineer that seemed likely to take him beyond his riding years as a motorcycle developer. He helped develop the aluminium chassis technology for Yamaha, and worked with Ohlins on the development of sophisticated road racing suspension, having a hand in the development of bikes which won a subsequent six titles after he’d hung up his leathers.
Roberts and his long-term association with Yamaha was terminated when he began Team Roberts and for many years his innovations in chassis design have been waiting for an engine of competitive standing. Sadly, the engine that was expected to be Team KR’s first truly competitive engine was the KTM – with Roberts ability to develop sweet-handling motorcycles and a strong engine, Team KR was expected to become competitive. Now it looks unlikely that the team will be able to meet even the most rudimentary goals of being able to afford tyres and the basic necessities.
KTM’s official statement
KTM’s official statement of August 12 reads as follows:
Austrian motorcycle company KTM has announced that it is no longer in a position to act as engine supplier to Team Roberts in the MotoGP World Championship.
The decision was taken after careful consideration by KTM management but does not impact on KTM’s participation in other FIM Road Racing categories.
KTM Chief Executive Officer, Mr Stefan Pierer, has confirmed that the company will continue to enter factory teams in the 125cc and 250cc world championships.
In 2006, the KTM 250cc team will be expanded to a two rider squad following the successful debut of the new machine which finished second on the podium at last month’s British Grand Prix.
And KTM’s three-rider 125cc grand prix team is currently dominating that championship, with three riders in the top six of the points. KTM have won five of the nine GPs so far this season.
The decision to end the supply of the KTM 990cc, V4 engine is based on a number of factors, including the change to the new 800cc MotoGP engine regulations in 2007.
For 2005 KTM’s sole aim was to be an engine supplier to a fully operational team. The company’s primary interest was engine supply, and not to support a factory-backed KTM MotoGP team.
Team Roberts were free to raise additional sponsorship and funding for the project. KTM recognises that this undertaking has not been an easy task.
To assist the project further KTM made available significant, and additional funding, over and above the cost of engine supply.
KTM contracted and paid team rider Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and agreed to fund the supply of Michelin tyres for the MotoGP season.
KTM’s current budgets do allow for any request for funding over and above these three key areas -engine supply, rider contract and cost of tyres.
KTM management also considered the impact of short-term investment in further development of the 990cc motor, which would become extinct at the end of the 2006 season.
For 2007, another significant investment would be required for an all-new 800cc motor for the MotoGP championship.
For these reasons, and in an effort to focus on their 125 and 250 GP projects, KTM has decided to cease MotoGP engine supply. In light of the new 800cc regulations any future involvement in MotoGP will be taken after a further assessment of the competition requirements best suited for the promotion of the KTM brand.
KTM would like wish Team Roberts every success in its future racing endeavours.ENDS
Team Roberts Official statement
Team Roberts official statement was made seven days later on August 19. It reads in full:
Simultaneously with the public on August 12th, KTM informed its partner, Team Roberts, through a press release that it is going to cancel all its activities in relation to the current racing season in the MotoGP series.
KTM thereby is in breach with its initial commitment to participate through Team Roberts in the 2005 racing season. In contrast to KTM's recent press release, in which it sought to present itself merely as an engine supplier, the cooperation between KTM and Team Roberts was supposed to be a partnership on equal footage. KTM not only undertook to contribute the engines, electronics, tires and the costs for the team rider, but also committed to share the responsibility for the funding of the team's budget for the racing season 2005. This budget was arrived at and agreed upon be-tween KTM and Team Roberts representatives in early February.
There were no additional requests for funding by Team Roberts over and above the original agreed upon amounts, only requests for on-schedule payments that were never received.
Team Roberts has acted honourably and in good faith to fulfill the obligations that were agreed with KTM. Team Roberts would not begin a project such as this without funding in place to complete the obligations to Dorna and our other sponsors for the entire season.
Both parties were perfectly aware that a participation of Team Roberts in the 2005 racing season would not have been a viable option without KTM's technical support and funding. In reliance on KTM's commitment as a strong and equal team partner, Team Roberts decided to engage in the racing season 2005.
At first, KTM effectively announced its cooperation and "the agreement reached" with Team Roberts. In fact, KTM also put considerable effort in this cooperation with Team Roberts in the current racing season. However, contrary to the other racing series, in which KTM participates, the expected success in the MotoGP series did not materialize.
Against this background and due to internal strategic business decisions and alterna-tive allocation of resources as announced by KTM in its recent press release, KTM decided to pull out of the cooperation with Team Roberts in the middle of the current racing season and to disregard its commitments with Team Roberts.
As KTM has not only failed to deliver competitive engines in the current racing sea-son, they have also failed to live up to their funding responsibilities and choose to breach their commitment to supply engines, electronics, tires and a rider to Team Roberts 2005 MotoGP efforts.
As we celebrate our 20th season of participation in motorcycle racings' premier category, Team Roberts will continue to assist in the professionalism and development of our sport. We are passionate about MotoGP and although our success during the past few years has been mixed and our views not always agreed, we have tried to succeed in a way which we believe may benefit the sport in the future, and we have committed 110% to our goals.
Obviously the departure of KTM creates severe problems for us and we will address the situation with our best efforts to continue in the championship.
We would like to thank all of our fans and motorcycle industry colleagues who have expressed support to us and encourage our continued participation. We also want to thank our suppliers and colleagues, who have been extremely patient in light of our current circumstances.
See you in Brno!ENDS