MotoGP

OFFICIAL: Johann Zarco quits KTM

A miserable Johann Zarco calls time on his KTM MotoGP tenure just 6 months into a two-year deal; May not see out the 2019 MotoGP season

JOHANN ZARCO will leave KTM at the end of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season – possibly sooner - after the Frenchman’s request to break contract was accepted in the wake of his lacklustre first-half to the 2019 season.

The two-time Moto2 champion switched to the Austrian manufacturer as part of a wider deal that saw Tech 3 Racing – whom he competed with during his first two seasons of MotoGP – align with KTM from 2019 as its satellite entity.

However, Zarco has struggled to adapt to the KTM with the smooth style that worked well on the Yamaha M1 to earn him six podiums and four pole positions over two seasons proving unsuited to the more aggressive RC16.

After half a season and not a single top ten finish to his name, Zarco has subsequently negotiated his way out of his two-year deal after only 11 races. For now, Zarco is due to still see out the season, but KTM says test rider Mika Kallio is on standby to fill in should the Frenchman opt against it.

What has KTM said?

“Johann Zarco and Red Bull KTM will not complete the second season of a two-year agreement together in 2020. The former Moto2 World Champion and the factory team have mutually decided to end his stint in orange at the end of the 2019 campaign,' said a KTM statement.

“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.'

How bad has Johann Zarco's KTM form been?

To date Zarco has a best finish of 12th place and though he looked to have made a breakthrough with his front row start at a damp Brno, the lofty starting position just magnified his eventual plummet to 14th position.

Whilst the gulf in form to team-mate Pol Espargaro can be justified by the Spaniard’s 

 has been involved in the project from season one, an eighth-place finish for rookie Miguel Oliveira aboard the satellite Tech 3 RC16 on KTM’s home soil was all the more timely - both good and bad depending on whether Zarco is relieved or embarrassed by this outcome. 

The writing was on the wall early on…

Zarco’s frustration with the KTM ultimately stems from the fact he hasn’t been able to assert any number one status at the team despite being touted as a future MotoGP world champion in the wake of his Moto2 success and form on the Tech 3 Yamaha.

When Zarco went public with his assertion that KTM should build a bike suited to his riding style, management retorted that he should be good enough to adapt his style rather than suggest the manufacturer throw four years of (expensive) development aside for him. 

However, when Zarco did study Espargaro’s style and attempted to replicate it, he often crashed – three times in one weekend at Mugello.

With the bike’s development going away from him and 18 months remaining on his contract, it seems neither Zarco nor KTM could stand to go on any further.

KTM this weekend confirmed it has committed to MotoGP for another five years, taking it up to the end of 2026.

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