Talking point: Factory KTM having the off-season from hell with GP season looming

It’s amazing the difference a couple of months can make sometimes. At the final round of the 2021 MXGP series which only took place in November, Factory KTM lifted the most prestigious title in the sport – the MXGP title with Jeffrey Herlings clinching his fifth world title.

KTM have had so much success in the sport up until now and it’s truly remarkable how many titles they’ve won and how many riders they’ve helped achieve their dreams of becoming world champions.

Fast forward a few months at KTM and the mood has completely changed. Leaving Mantova on a high everyone would have been super excited for the 2022 season but the team have had the off-season from hell.

As far as MX2 is concerned, Rene Hofer tragically lost his life at the beginning of December after getting caught up in an avalanche in Austria. A super talented kid who had everything to become a future World Champion – our thoughts are still with his loved ones.

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KTM currently have Tom Vialle as the only fit rider going into the 2022 season after it was revealed that Jeffrey Herlings has completed a surgical process to fix a broken heel bone in his left foot. It’s not been officially confirmed that the current MXGP world champion will be out of action of the first MXGP round at Matterley Basin but it is likely.

It now means that KTM are a Tom Vialle injury away from a complete disaster and all this has happened over the off-season with no Motocross racing actually involved!

What are KTM options? A nine time world champion, Antonio Cairoli announced his retirement from professional racing at the end of the 2021 season but if I’m part of KTM,  I’ve already called him and demanded he turns up at Matterley Basin to race the MXGP opening round!

The Italian has previously stated he’d most likely race the Italian GP’s anyway and with Mantova being round two it might make sense to draft Cairoli in until Herlings makes his return at the very least. Who knows, if Cairoli was in a good championship position after the first 3-5 rounds when Herlings (hopefully) returns he might just be convinced to race more GP’s.

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

At the wildcard MXGP rounds that Cairoli will race he is expected to run a RACR Factory KTM setup with his own truck and whilst he’s got a role at de Carli GasGas with testing and helping the younger riders, I am sure an agreement could be reached that he could run his RACR KTM under the Factory awning.

There’s one thing that’s certain and it’s that KTM are going into the 2022 with a headache and turning to Cairoli might just make the most sense. He might not have had a full off-season but who else could they turn too? It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the future weeks but it wouldn’t be ideal for Factory KTM to not have an MXGP rider at round one.

Article: Andy McKinstry

Main pic: KTM images/Ray Archer