Niccolo Antonelli will lead the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad in the 2017 Moto3 season after being signed to replace Brad Binder. The 2016 champion-elect will move to Ajo’s KTM Moto2 outfit alongside Miguel Oliveira with Antonelli making the switch from Ongetta-Rivacold who look set to sign the controversial Romano Fenati.
Antonelli has endured a difficult 2016 season which has been blighted by accidents and injuries since his victory in the Qatar season opener but, with three career wins, has proven pedigree in the lightweight class and believes he will now be in the perfect environment to succeed.
“I’m very happy to join Red Bull KTM Ajo because it is a dream come true. This is a team that has produced several World Champions and that has always fought to be at the top, so I want to learn a lot here next year. The aim is to fight for victory in every race, or at least be on the podium when that is not possible. I want to improve on what I’ve done in the last two years in the World Championship and will fight as much as I can to do this. It is exciting to ride a KTM again. I’m sure the bike is very different compared with that I rode in 2014 – even better – and I can’t wait to try it out.”
The Italian will join Bo Bendsneyder who will stick around for a second season with the Finnish team. The Dutch rookie has improved throughout 2016, claiming his first podium at Silverstone, and is hoping to a regular frontrunner in 2017.
“To be on the team one more year is a great opportunity. I want to thank Aki (Ajo) for trusting me and also Red Bull, KTM and the other partners. Now we have to concentrate on finishing this year well, and then we’ll think about next season. I am convinced that we will do a good job. We have to keep our feet on the ground and work hard every day. It will be nice to work with a new teammate. I’ve felt very comfortable with Brad (Binder) and I’m sure I will also be so with Niccolo (Antonelli). I’m looking forward to working with him. This team is like a family and I really like that. Everyone is very sincere, they always say things directly and work to improve as a team. This is the most important thing. Next year I will do my best and see if I can be at the front, but first I want to concentrate on finishing this year well.”