Danilo Petrucci looks set to join the factory KTM MotoGP outfit on a one-year deal for 2021, according to German publication Speedweek.
The Italian confirmed earlier this month that he would leave current employers Ducati following the manufacturer’s decision to replace him with Pramac racer Jack Miller for ’21, with Andrea Dovizioso set to stay in the other seat.
Having earmarked both KTM and Aprilia as potential landing pads shortly after, Petrucci and manager Alberto Vergani recently visited the KTM factory in Austria with a view to securing the Honda-bound Pol Espargaro’s vacant ride.
Talking to Speedweek, Vergani said: “We like each other. Now is the right time to become part of this ambitious project.”
Talks are thought to have continued at an accelerated rate, and Petrucci has apparently been offered a one-year deal with an option to continue in ’22.
This would mark his first season not competing on Ducati machinery since ’14, when he competed on an Ioda-run ART machine built to Claiming Rules Teams specification.
Petrucci secured his first MotoGP victory at his and Ducati’s home contest at Mugello last year, but a severe drop in form towards the end of the campaign led to Ducati choosing Miller as its main future hope.
How does Petrucci’s KTM signing affect the rider market?
With Alex Marquez thought to be heading to LCR Honda – leaving Cal Crutchlow’s future at the Lucio Ceccinello-run squad in doubt – the only question marks outstanding regard the likely vacant second seat at Aprilia.
The incumbent Andrea Iannone is looking ever more likely to receive a multi-year ban from motorcycle racing following his seemingly unsuccessful appeal to reverse his doping ban, which would ostensibly ends his career in the premier class.
Crutchlow is an obvious choice should Iannone not be around in ’21, but another interesting option could be Tech 3 KTM pilot Miguel Oliveira.
The Portuguese Moto2 and Moto3 race winner was outwardly frustrated with KTM at the end of last year following its decision to promote Binder to the factory outfit for his maiden campaign this season, leaving Oliveira at Tech 3.
Should Petrucci’s appointment at KTM be confirmed, this would leave Oliveira with little confidence in the Austrian marque’s future plans for him within its fold.
Aprilia could therefore provide a good opportunity for future growth, particularly with lead rider Aleix Espargaro likely to retire once his current two-year deal with the Noale-based manufacturer comes to an end.
Who Tech 3 could sign alongside Iker Lecuona should Oliveira exit remains unclear, although the smart money would point to VR46 Moto2 racer Marco Bezzecchi, who is still affiliated with KTM and Tech 3 after competing with the squad during its final intermediate class outing last year.
Jorge Martin still looks set to switch from KTM to Pramac Ducati next year, leaving the other Tech 3 seat open for the Italian should he impress sufficiently in his sophomore Moto2 campaign.