Dropping Bradley Smith after only a year on the KTM would not have been fair, KTM MotoGP motorsport director Pit Beirer has claimed after confirming that the Englishman will remain with the team next year.
There had been speculation that he could be replaced by KTM test rider Mika Kallio after the Finnish rider finished ahead of Smith and the Austrian and Aragon Grand Prix in 2017. This speculation was ended when KTM confirmed before the final 4 races of 2017 that Smith would stay with the team.
This had an immediate impact as Smith had his best qualifying position of 7th at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi and fared much better over the final four races of the season.
Acknowledging the pressure, KTM feel vindicated at the announcement of him remaining and are also aware that both riders took a leap of faith when leaving Tech3 Yamaha to join a team in their first year back in MotoGP for a long time. Having to adjust to a brand new bike that is developing all the time, meaning every race is like a mini-test is not the easiest thing to do.
With the pressure off, there is hope that Smith will find himself back up the order as he has been previously as you don’t lose that talent overnight.
First of all, he has a contract for next year. There was never going to be no ride for him next year. But 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.