Red Bull KTM poised to maintain course and emerge a major contender in 2021

After languishing at the wrong end of the team standings in their first three seasons in the MotoGP world championship, KTM finally announced their arrival in the premier class during the pandemic-hit 2020 campaign with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira combining for the constructor's first three race victories ever.

Having claimed just one podium finish since their debut in 2017 prior to last season, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's maiden win was secured by Brad Binder at the Czech Republic Grand Prix in August. Oliveira, then racing for satellite team Tech3, emerged the winner at KTM's home Styrian GP and in the season finale in his own backyard in Portugal.

Can the Austrian manufacturer build on last season's success in the premier class?

They are pinning their hopes on Binder and Oliveira, with the Portuguese racer deservingly earning a promotion to the factory team as a replacement for Pol Espargaro, who has moved to Repsol Honda.

KTM Motorsport director Pit Beirer tried to play down his team's prospects and said they do not want to commit to being title contenders in their fifth season in the sport. Yet with the talent in the team, a solid bike at their disposal, and a season of unprecedented success in the bag, it could be difficult to temper expectations.

Binder, awarded the sport's Rookie of the Year award last season, took the first win just three races into his premier class career, although he then went the remainder of the season without another podium. The talented South African will be aching to return to the top step again in his second year in MotoGP.

Meanwhile, Oliveira will team up with Binder for a third time in his career and will hope to pick up from right where they left off.

If the two drivers can click into top gear from the start, the KTM factory team can aim for the upper echelons of the world championship in 2021.

What they said

Brad Binder: "2020, in general, was a season where I feel we achieved a lot, a few good results and obviously with the first victory -- or KTM's first victory -- being the main thing. But there were also many days when we had the potential to do so much more.

"For sure now the margin is a little bit smaller to try and improve but I think as the season went on last year, even though we had a little bit of a slump in the middle, things got better and better.

"At the moment I feel that we have a really, really strong package. We are in a good direction and I am super-excited to get back on the bike."

Miguel Oliveira: "For sure, being better than 2020 is already a good start. It is quite a relaxing factor to know that the bike is capable of winning but at the same time you cannot take anything for granted and when it comes to repeating success it becomes harder, so I don't see it as a static job.

"I think every year you need to bring something 'up' on your side to keep a very good level in this championship. I feel I am able to work more on details in a factory team and to at least be more consistent.

"I think these are the tools that the factory team is going to give me. I have full conviction in my work."

As the lights go out...

Expecting even more from the rising force in 2021, FOX Sports Asia MotoGP presenter Edward Russell says: "This will be the first ever year that Red Bull KTM line up on the grid without one of its founding riders in Pol Espargaro.

"It will now be up to two very young riders to continue the development of the RC16, but in Oliveira and Binder, they've got two of the best of their crop, and both now know what it takes to win a MotoGP race.

"I love the way that both young men ride without fear and pressure, and if KTM can continue the huge strides in progress that they've taking ever since they entered the premier class in 2017, it could well be a very successful year for the Austrian team."

2021 will be a success if: Though it was a breakout season for Red Bull KTM in MotoGP last season, the consensus within the team is that there is still plenty of room for improvement moving forward. But the pressure will also be on now that it has been proven they have a bike that can win races. A successful campaign will be if Binder and Oliveira can propel them to regular podium finishes.