Left ‘heartbroken’ by the news that he will not be part of KTM’s 2023 MotoGP line-up, Gardner faced a return to Moto2 or a switch to World Superbike.
On the eve of this weekend’s Aragon round, the Australian – son of 1987 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner – confirmed that he will join WorldSBK by riding for the GRT Yamaha team.
Gardner, 24, will take over from Garrett Gerloff, who is moving to the Bonovo BMW team.
“I’m looking forward to the new project for next year,” Gardner said. “It’s going to definitely be a big change for me, a lot of things to learn. New tyres and different class, different bikes, but having seen the races the last few months, it does look pretty fun.
“I’ve done five years in Moto2. Managed to be champion. For me, there was nothing really left to do there. I kind of wanted a new challenge and just something different to be honest.
“They [WorldSBK bikes] look really fun to ride. There’s a lot more passing going on than I think in MotoGP. So yeah, honestly looks pretty awesome.”
Asked if he is ready to battle given the kind of contact seen between title rivals Alvaro Bautista, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea at Magny-Cours last weekend, Gardner added:
“Yeah, definitely. I always like a good scrap! Which is fun. I’m not complaining. I can get my elbows out!”
‘Part of me wants to come back and prove everybody wrong’
Asked whether his goal is now to try and get back into MotoGP as soon as possible or forge a long-term future in WorldSBK, Gardner replied:
“I don’t know if there’s going to be an opportunity to come back obviously. I don’t feel like I was kind of ready to go yet, I think I still could have done something quite positive here.
“But I’m not sure, honestly, I couldn’t answer that right now, because maybe I’ll like it so much in Superbikes I won’t even want to come back.
“There is a part of me that wants to come back and kind of prove everybody wrong. Especially you-know-who.”
He added: “Like I said, I don’t feel like my time was up in MotoGP. But unfortunately, that came to quite an abrupt end. But ask me next year and I’ll probably tell you I’m happy [to stay in WorldSBK]. More than anything I’m excited to start this new project.”
Gardner’s Tech3 KTM-to-WorldSBK move also mirrors the path of Iker Lecuona.
“Iker’s already been on the podium, so he’s been having some decent races [even though] I hear the Honda’s maybe not as competitive at the moment.
“I think the [Yamaha] package that we’ll have next year is not too bad. Hopefully, we can be up there fighting for podiums, which is ultimately what I want. I don’t want to be last anymore!”
A winner of six Moto2 races and the 2021 world title, Gardner has a best finish of eleventh during his 14 premier-class races to date.
Although just 23rd in the MotoGP standings, he is one point ahead of team-mate and fellow rookie Raul Fernandez, who is joining RNF Aprilia next year.
Gardner’s 2023 Tech3 replacement is still to be confirmed, with Moto2 title contender Augusto Fernandez hotly tipped to ride alongside Pol Espargaro.