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KTM wanted Dani Pedrosa to replace Johann Zarco for 2020 MotoGP 

KTM gave Dani Pedrosa first refusal on an offer to return to MotoGP action in 2020 but was turned down; Mika Kallio 'auditioning' for deal with 2019 races

Dani Pedrosa - KTM MotoGP

KTM has confirmed it did approach Dani Pedrosa over the prospect of a return to MotoGP in 2020 as a replacement for the departed Johann Zarco, but the offer was turned down.

Pedrosa brought his remarkably long 13-year tenure as a Repsol Honda rider to an end in 2019, shunning an attractive offer to join Petronas SRT Yamaha - the bike enjoying success in the hands of Fabio Quartararo – in favour of a move to KTM as its lead development rider.

His experience and knowledge – which was held in immensely high regard at a multiple title-winning Honda - has been credited with steering KTM’s strong gains this season, while even Zarco for all of his criticism of the KTM RC16 admits the Spaniard has been integral to its development into an increasingly competitive machine.

As such, KTM gave Pedrosa first refusal on a chance to return when it emerged it couldn’t continue with Zarco from this weekend’s Aragon MotoGP but couldn’t convince him.

“Since his lap times became pretty good lately, we saw that he was also looking a little bit more towards the race again, and we asked him definitely one time, but [he] just said no,” Motorsport Director Pit Beirer told our sister publication Crash.net

“And we are 100 percent fine with that decision, because this would be something which could help us really today, not even tomorrow, to have results with him on a racetrack, but first of all, he couldn't achieve anything which he wouldn't have been able to achieve in his fantastic career.

“It could only bring him trouble. And we need him, definitely, because that role that he is playing for us as a test rider at the moment, it's so much better than I was thinking or hoping, that he will be a key person for our project in the future.

“So actually, no problem that he said no, but we had to ask him, if this guy is in the KTM family. But it's absolutely no topic or no discussion for this year or next year.”

Why is Dani Pedrosa turning down a return to MotoGP?

Pedrosa has made it very clear he has no desire to return to racing in favour of throwing his all behind turning KTM from mid-field runner to a genuine rival for Honda, Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki.

Indeed, Pedrosa has gone to great lengths to ensure he remains a fairly anonymous – albeit crucial – part of the KTM development programme. 

Much of his testing takes place behind closed doors and when he does venture onto track alongside his erstwhile rivals, such as in Brno, the transponders are removed and he doesn’t partake in any post-test media sessions.

Whilst it could be seen as galling for KTM to have such a quality rider on standby that doesn’t want to fulfil what seems to be a perfect solution on paper – especially for only six races or one year - it says it fully respects Pedrosa’s decision to keep his role purely ‘behind the scenes’

‘We will definitely not ask him and I hope the call is not coming, to be honest. If we look at the project in the medium term, I think it's healthier if he doesn't call me about this. But he called me last Saturday to congratulate me for the first row, and I said thank you to him, because he was a big part of that.”

That said, Beirer admits ‘it would be hard to say no’ if Pedrosa had a change of heart.

Mika Kallio’s live audition for 2020 KTM ride

While Pedrosa may be its first choice, KTM does have a solid ‘Plan B’ in Kallio, who will take part in his first full-time MotoGP stint since 2010 as he sees out the season.

With KTM now out of sync with its rivals when it comes to rider contracts – which all end in 2020 – it faces either sticking with what it knows by hiring Kallio (or former race rider Bradley Smith) or getting creative by promoting Miguel Oliveira and considering a Moto2 graduate to join Brad Binder in the Tech 3 set up.

For now it seems Kallio is the hot favourite to land a full-time return in 2020, but Beirer says it will see how the Finn fares in these next few races before coming to a decision in November.

“Mika is like the strong rock in this whole MotoGP project from the first beginning and then jumping in today. We need to see the next races with him, what kind of level he is at, if he can be the guy to do it for next year or if we need to find another solution.

“The answer is not there. We have a lot of homework. The bike needs to improve. We will develop it but the rider is definitely not clear.”