KTM Motorsport Director, Pit Beirer, has commented on the seemingly strange strategy from Red Bull KTM and former multi-world champion Tony Cairoli to alternate between factory 350SX-F and 450SX-F machinery in recent Grands Prix.

The Sicilian took a podium spot at the Belgian round with the 350 and then a moto win and overall victory a week later in Switzerland with the bigger motorcycle.

Cairoli has pointed at new 2018 parts on the ’17 models of both bikes that have given a fresh competitive edge while also hinting that the 450 had been harder to ride due to his pre-season injury. The 30-year-old also re-asserted his belief that the higher corner speed and demands of the 350 are not an easy ask.


Who was leading the swap between the bikes? Rider, team or manufacturer? “I was even a bit of the driving force behind it,” Beirer comments. “I know that we have some fantastic new 350 material at home and there was something I was ‘missing’ in Tony’s riding style that we always saw on the 350. To prepare better for next season I wanted to see him on that bike again in a race. We are not directly in the [MXGP] title hunt anymore and there is no better test than in a race. We wanted to have that new 350 on the racetrack to see where we are and where the modifications are needed to make this bike competitive again for MXGP.”

“It was not a completely crazy manoeuvre and he took enough points to not change the championship picture and also helped clarify in his mind how he wants to end the season,” says Beirer, mindful that Cairoli is second in the series and 99 points behind Tim Gajser. “I think it gave us some good directions on how to make his 450.”

KTM have struggled for headline results in MXGP this year (only Cairoli has reached the podium) and neither Glenn Coldenhoff nor Shaun Simpson (supposedly with full factory support as part of the Wilvo Virus Performance team) have been able to secure silverware. With the brand so successful in MX2 and with the 450SX-F flying in the hands of Ryan Dungey and Marvin Musquin in the USA it was hard for the firm to see relatively slim picking in the premier class. “I would agree that some days I was frustrated because we developed our 450 strongly in the last years and had so many good results with it,” Beirer says. “Ryan Dungey wins the Supercross for us in May but then we struggled to be on the podium in MXGP – for sure it is not what we work for every day but then I’m not super-surprised because the competition is so high.”

Coldenhoff, in particular, seems to have taken his time to find an effective feeling on the works machine but Beirer looks at the bigger picture.

“If you have six or seven factories involved and everyone has two riders then you have 12 or more factory riders, so if Glenn finished eighth in a race then we should stay fair because the level in MXGP is so high at the moment. You cannot make a top eight in this class on cruise mode. Glenn is doing okay – not better than last year but also not worse. Tony is coming back from two ugly injuries and not at his best performance but we are still second and third – with Max Nagl – in the championship. Tim Gajser is an incredibly cool rider and physically and mentally very strong, riding fast and with a good bike. We are fighting at the top of the sport. Compared to five years ago there are more bikes and teams in that group but that’s what we wanted and what we asked for. If you are a little bit ‘off’ one day then you are not on the podium or even in the top five and that’s how it should be.”