(Reuters) - Former MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi believes KTM can be genuine title contenders for the world championship in 2020 and said Brad Binder's victory at the Czech Republic Grand Prix is proof of how far they have come.
Rookie Binder, 25, claimed his maiden MotoGP win in Brno on Sunday and the KTM team could have had two riders on the podium had the South African's team mate Pol Espargaro not crashed.
Asked during a virtual news conference on Thursday ahead of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix if KTM could win the championship, Yamaha's Rossi said: "Yes... why not, because their improvement compared to last year is impressive."
The result at Brno represented a first victory for KTM since making their full-time debut in 2017.
"KTM has put a big effort into its MotoGP programme. Already at Jerez they were competitive and at Brno I think that without the crash of Pol they could have arrived first and second," Rossi added.
"They're very strong, maybe they're the favourites here... They have a minimum of three riders that are in great shape and ride strong. So, they can fight for the championship for sure."
Binder said he was keen to hit the track at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, where rain is predicted over the weekend.
"It'll be super cool to try out the rain conditions again, I'm looking forward to it strangely enough," added Binder, who is fifth in the riders' standings led by Fabio Quartararo.
"It's a really important weekend for Red Bull and KTM, their home Grand Prix, it'll be fantastic to have a good weekend for them but it's important to keep my feet on the ground, reset.
"I want to carry on exactly how I've done in the previous weekends and just try and have a clean weekend overall."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)