British rider Bradley Smith will race for the factory KTM team from the 2017 MotoGP season, announcing a two-year deal over the Qatar Grand Prix weekend.
Smith has raced in MotoGP with the satellite Yamaha Tech 3 team since 2013, scoring two podium finishes and recording a best finish of sixth in the championship last year.
Austrian manufacturer KTM will return to the premier class of motorcycle racing in 2017, having last been involved in MotoGP as an engine supplier back in 2005.
Smith is the first rider signed up to race for KTM in 2017, with Mika Kallio, Randy de Puniet and Alex Hofmann currently all enjoying test roles.
“The MotoGP project is running exactly according to plan. Both the engineers at the factory and the test team are achieving highly professional work with two bikes and their test riders,” KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer said.
“By signing Bradley Smith as factory rider for two years we can now take the next step in the long journey to MotoGP.
“At just 25, Bradley is competing in his fourth season in the premier class. He rode his way to second place in Misano and last season as overall sixth, he was clearly the best rider among all the customer teams.”
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.