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KTM: Dropping Smith would have been unfair

KTM MotoGP motorsport director Pit Beirer says dropping Bradley Smith for the 2018 season due to his poor results this year would have been "not fair".


KTM MotoGP motorsport director Pit Beirer says dropping Bradley Smith for the 2018 season due to his poor results this year would have been "not fair".

Smith's consistent failure to match team-mate Pol Espargaro during the season had generated speculation that the Briton was to be dropped in favour of KTM tester Mika Kallio for next year.

These rumours intensified as Kallio beat Smith during a wildcard outing at the Red Bull Ring in August, and then did so again when he was handed an extra race on a third KTM at September's Aragon Grand Prix.

But shortly before the Motegi round in October, KTM issued a statement to confirm it will run an unchanged race line-up next season, and that Kallio will remain its test rider.

Bradley Smith (KTM) - Grand Prix of Aragon 2017Getty Images

"First of all, he has a contract for next year," said Beirer when asked why KTM chose to keep Smith on board.

"There was never going to be no ride for him next year.cBut from the outside there was a lot of pressure because his results were not so good.

"Also you have to see that both riders took a huge risk coming into a new project, with a new bike, coming from a very competitive bike [Tech3 Yamaha].

"When they signed for us, there was a blank piece of paper, they couldn't even look at the bike. It would not be fair to drop a rider halfway through the first season.

"We decided to give him the time to develop. I know he's better than what he showed and something was wrong for him and not feeling good.

"And since the pressure got bigger and bigger I just took the chance before the riders left [for the flyaways] to confirm that we will stick to the contract, to take this huge load off his back.

"How can you perform if when you come into the paddock, the first question is 'How many hours do you still have left in this team before they kick you out'?"

Smith ended the season 26 points and three places behind Espargaro in the standings in 21st, but had an upturn in form after KTM's 2018 statement - beginning with a season-best seventh on the grid at Motegi.

Beirer believes that shows reiterating KTM's support for Smith was the right thing to do.

"We have already seen through this little confirmation a different rider," added Beirer.

"Where we are at the moment, it's thanks to the riders, so it was a pleasure for me to confirm that he stays with us and he will be part of us next year."

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