Johann Zarco and KTM Factiry Racing will end their association after the 2019 MotoGP season, it has been announced.
Zarco made his MotoGP debut in 2017 with Tech 3 when they used the Yamaha M1 as the Frenchman sixth in the two seasons with six podium finishes in all, before making a switch to KTM in 2019.
He signed a two-year contract alongside Pol Espargaro, but soon realise the difficulty of the task ahead. History has shown that it isn’t easy for any rider to switch bikes and perform at his best straightaway.
At first, it looked like that but as the season progressed, the situation worsened. Zarco qualified third for the Czech MotoGP race at Brno but could only 14th in the grand prix on Sunday.
In fact, in the 11 races so far, Zarco has 22 points in all to be 17th, while teammate Espargaro has 61 to be 11th. Even satellite rider Miguel Oliveira abode the Tech 3 KTM machine has 26 points to be 15th.
Having finished 12th in KTM’s home grand prix at Red Bull Ring, reports started to pour in late in the night about Zarco’s request to KTM, to end his contract early and not continue beyond 2019 MotoGP season.
The news has been now confirmed by KTM – who announced a revamped project on Sunday to bolster its MotoGP chances amid a contract extension to stay in the premier class for until the 2026 season.
The statement reads: “The 29-year-old joined KTM towards the end of 2018 after his second term in MotoGP and for his first with full-factory support. Zarco tried to adapt his riding style to the KTM RC16 and the team tried relentlessly to mould the #5 machine to the Frenchman’s wishes and requirements while teammate Pol Espargaro made regular Q2 qualification appearances and persistently vied for top ten positions.
“Ultimately both Johann and the team decided not to proceed with their joint project for 2020 and will now focus on giving the maximum for the final eight rounds and remaining months of MotoGP 2019.”
While one can applaud the modesty of both Zarco and KTM in this process, it does leave the Austrian manufacturer in a spot of bother with regards to its future line-up, which they have to full up at a very short notice.
At this juncture, they have Espargaro in the factory seat with Miguel Oliveira and Moto2 graduate Brad Binder in Tech 3 for 2020 in place. They also dropped the struggling Hafizh Syahrin from their line-up.
Should they rope in another rider, it will be again the case of getting used to, while they can also look to promote Oliveira – who is still learning as well – to the factory seat and retain Syahrin alongside Binder.