KTM on Zarco: 'We must both do a step now...'

Motorsport Director Pit Beirer offers his thoughts on new signing Johann Zarco’s early struggles aboard KTM’s RC16…
KTM on Zarco: 'We must both do a step now...'

KTM’s Motorsport Director Pit Beirer has admitted the early season struggles of new signing Johann Zarco has come as a surprise, but has resolved to make a success of the move to prove the Frenchman was right to choose his team.

Speaking to Crash.net, Beirer said he was not expecting Zarco to need so much time to adapt to the factory RC16. Likewise, he has been taken aback at the apparent unsuitability of the bike to the double Moto2 world champion’s riding style.

Zarco has managed a best finish of 13th place in the opening four races while complaining of a lack of front end feel since his first test on the bike last November. Not even a new chassis, brought to Jerez, could bring about a significant improvement in confidence.

Beirer believes Zarco must strive to adapt his riding style and utilise the positives of the machine. “The bike also has some advantages,” he said while stating the machine will not respond when ridden like a Yamaha M1, the Frenchman’s previous bike.

After a tough weekend in Texas, Zarco said he had reached the limit of the RC16’s capabilities in its current. Only new components would aid his quest to get closer to the top ten.

Asked whether he agreed with this assessment, Beirer said, “He’s correct if he just continues to ride the bike like he rode his previous bike. It’s a different bike. We must both do a step now. He must somehow use the advantage of the bike, because the bike also has some advantages, otherwise it’s not possible what Pol is doing.

“So he must really use them. The bike has some weaknesses and we must improve the weakness. If you bring it down to the logical thing, we know the job. We need to help each other now. He cannot stick to a pure riding style that he wants to use.

“But we also cannot tell him, ‘This is your bike – your team-mate is going fast so please go on.’ We will move in his direction as quick as we can, because it’s also not in our long-term interests that a top rider must change his riding style for us.

“This made us successful in all the other disciplines around the world, that we actually gave the riders the tools they needed to perform. This is now in an urgent situation, but like I said, he is ready to do the steps and we are also ready to help him. We need to turn this around in the first part of the season.

“There are many things you can discuss [in terms of] why and what. But at the end of the day we expected for sure an easier move, for himself and us. So there we struggle and we are absolutely not happy about this situation.

“But this is also proving something that we stand for at KTM: with the first difficult wind we don’t give up. I feel responsible for Johann to give him the right tools, to perform better.

“Then I will ask him, from his side, to push at the maximum because sometimes it looks like we are lost. But we will get there and we will prove that we took the right rider. And I will prove to him that he chose the right company.”

As well as his rider, Zarco’s crew chief Marcus Eschenbacher is another new arrival at the factory, and has had to learn the fine details of the machine after a number of years at Aprilia.

“I mean that doesn’t help,” said Beirer. “You have a new project with a new bike and then also new people who have to learn the bike before they can give a strong opinion to the rider. Not very helpful, but the crew was chosen together with Johann already last year and it’s a set-up I really believe in.

“I’m not jealous about the position of Johann’s crew chief. For sure Marcus [Eschenbacher] is doing the maximum with the tools he has at the moment. Johann is asking for something from his crew chief that he cannot deliver. We need to work clearly on the bike to give it to him. We are under pressure.”