Johann Zarco has opened up about his decision to leave KTM at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season, while talks on his 2020 plans.
Following the Austrian GP race at Red Bull Ring, where Zarco finished 12th, the Frenchman sent a shockwave on Monday morning with the announcement of leaving KTM at the end of the 2019 MotoGP season.
In fact, Zarco already told about his decision on Saturday but the news only started to circulate after the grand prix, which was confirmed on Monday. It was the Frenchman’s call to quit, which KTM agreed to do.
Speaking to French publication L’Equipe, Zarco opened up about his decision to part ways with KTM after the troubles he had adjusting with the bike, which started to eat up his mind slowly.
“I went to see Stefan on Saturday afternoon after a long reflection,” said Zarco. “We’re doing the maximum to improve the bike for eight months and we didn’t make any steps forward, so the situation is pretty difficult.
“I’m sad on this bike. This is my passion and feeling that I can’t do it. Getting off the bike being systematically sad, this wasn’t possible anymore. This is why I decide to go forward because it’s not the way that I want to ride.
“This was my speech at the beginning of the year: ‘It will be better in the next race, we will find a solution.’ But now, as we’ve just passed the halfway point of the season, I needed to make a decision.
“I have to ‘open my mind’ to other opportunities, even if there aren’t any here now. It seems blocked for 2020. But to continue for the good salary that KTM gives me, riding only for the money, it would be not ‘respecting myself’. I want to fight for podiums.”
When asked about reaching psychological limit, Zarco refuted those comments as the Frenchman felt himself to be in a good position despite the difficult situation. “No no, we’re far from that,” he said.
“I’m fully conscious about where I am and where I want to go. As I said on my social media channels after the announcement: ‘I’m doing the best job in the world, with a smile and I want to fight for podiums’.
‘But recently, people were often telling me: you’re between the 24 best riders in the world, you earn enough to have a good life, but you look so sad.’ Yes, it’s frustrating not being able to fight for my goals.”
Much was said about his move to KTM when Tech 3 decided to switch to the Austrian manufacturer but Zarco said he has no regrets joining the team – the decision which was taken together with his former manager.
The biggest question right now is about his plans for 2020. With MotoGP seats not in abundance, he may have to take a year out or move to a different series like World Superbike. Right now, he has no plans ready.
“It’s is too early to speak about it,” he said. “The way that I could speak to KTM was quite frank and sincere. I think they appreciated my reaction and they’ve respected my decision, even if they were quite surprised.
“But they see that I can’t get out of these difficulties. It would be easier if I have a plan B. But fighting with KTM, it wasn’t possible for me to search another contract somewhere else.
“I don’t have a manager and I don’t have time. Maybe I’m behaving too honestly for this world. To end my career [if I don’t find a seat], it is a no. But to not ride in MotoGP in 2020, I can say, yes. There’s a fear all the same.”
As for the rest of the season, Zarco feels the weight off his shoulder could help in better results. While Zarco shared his side of the story, KTM boss Pit Beirer also discussed about the discussion on Red Bull-owned Servus TV.
“It wasn’t exactly our own decision,” he said. “Johann came to me and Mike Leitner on Saturday evening, he wanted an appointment with us. We were a bit surprised, because the time was a bit unusual for a short briefing.
“And there he sat in front of us, really tense and with tears in his eyes, saying that at the moment he can’t handle it anymore and he wants to get out of the contract.
“There wasn’t much room to discuss anything. His decision was so firm and so clear and actually sad. For us the moment was actually super-sad, but it was also our wish to help him to get out of this situation and not to burden him even more.
“As a person and as a guy, how he sat there, it was really cruel to watch. On the other hand it is understandable from a sporting point of view. He sees himself with us in a valley where he can’t get out any more, and now he just wants to realign himself.”
When asked about his replacement, Beirer said that they are not in a hurry as they want to take a call after seeing the response from riders all around the globe and then decide as per their requirement.
They do have test riders Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio with them but the former seems content with his current role and doesn’t want to be back in MotoGP as a full-time rider to replace Zarco alongside Pol Espargaro.