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Johann Zarco Confirms Ducati Deal to Race Next Year for Avintia Satellite Team

The Roman poet Virgil said “fortune favors the brave” … and so it is with Johann Zarco. The 29-year-old Zarco voluntarily walked away from a multi-million dollar KTM factory ride last year, leaving himself unemployed and with dim prospects for the 2020 MotoGP season.

Zarco is telling the French press that he has a deal directly with Ducati to ride with the Avintia satellite squad in MotoGP next year, the grid spot left by the terminated Karel Abraham. Zarco has said his deal is directly with Ducati, and that he has assurances from Gigi Dall’Igna (head of the factory Ducati MotoGP team) that he will have quality support, including an experienced crew chief, together with a competitive bike. Zarco says he is aiming for a top seven finish in next year’s championship, and a leap to the factory Ducati team in 2021. Talk about landing on your feet.


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48 Comments

  1. orbit398 says:

    Go Zarco. Would be awesome to see him running up front. Wishing him luck.

  2. Delmartian says:

    I watched many AMA Superbike races between the late 90’s through 2008 (attending a half dozen or so), and enjoyed the epic battles between Ben Spies and Mat Mladin. It was thrilling to watch Ben advance to WorldSBK in 2009 and take the championship his rookie year. He showed great promise his first couple years in MotoGP, and it was so cool having THREE Americans on the grid in 2014 (Spies, Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards). What happened with American Superbike ? Why did interest die off ? Why’d it stop creating riders who could compete on the world stage ?

  3. Neil says:

    MotoGP is a joke in that it is supported by brands and who has access to those sponsors. There should be a pool of brand money and everyone has the same access. Just find the best riders and hire them. And have Honda share their money like the MLB does with weaker teams. – Zarco can win. He just needs a fast machine that will tip in or back in.

  4. Delmartian says:

    Dirck – Suggestion for new thread: How is it that France can manage to have two competitive riders in MotoGP in 2020, yet America won’t have even a single rider on the grid for the 5th year in a row ? (since 2016). How can we fix this ? I love watching, but it would be so much more compelling if we had a rider or two with “USA” listed under the “Nation” column.

    • Pedro says:

      Moto 2 and 3 are feeder series. Get kids in these and see what happens – it takes money, talent and involves a lot of enculturation.

    • Dave says:

      USA Road racing is in decline. Our series aren’t competitive or lucrative enough get real talent to emerge anymore.

      The best chance is if Garett Gerloff goes on a tear like Ben Spies did. Anything less than that for a guy over 18 years old? meh.. MotoGP won’t look twice.

      • Christopher says:

        USA Racing is in decline because we have crap media coverage.
        If you look at the supporting MotoAmerica classes, they are full grids.
        We need more people like Gerloff going over and testing the waters.
        JD Beach in Moto2 or WSBK? That would be fun.

        • Dave says:

          The media will cover whatever there is advertising dollars and viewership for. We used to have AMA, MotoGP and WSBK available to us and the programming under-performed. The sad truth is that nobody wants to watch road racing in the US.

        • Motoman says:

          Yeah, crap media coverage because the fan base has been shrinking for years. Can’t blame the media for the decline. Hopefully, Wayne Rainey can revive it enough so the fans will return but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      • Jeremy says:

        Yeah, that’s the sad reality of it. If someone here feels they really have the talent, they need to make their way to Europe at a fairly young age and compete in one the prominent national series in the UK, Spain, or Italy and then race their butts off in hopes of getting noticed by a Moto3 or Moto2 team. That’s a tall ask for some young adult (or kid and his/her parents) in Smalltown, USA… Assuming there is even anything in place for that person to realize that they have the talent in the first place.

        • mickey says:

          That is how the USA became a powerhouse in MotoX with Brad Lackey moving to Europe. Others followed. We learned.

        • John says:

          I thunk you hit on a big part of the problem right there. My son is eleven and has raced MX for a few years. He wants to start roadracing this coming year and we’re going to support it, but he is already late to the game. Unfortunately, in this country, (AMA sanctioned) clubs won’t let a kid race until s/he is 12 years old. In Spain they have mini road racing for kids at 4 or 5 years old. Puts Americans at a huge disadgantage.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Man, Zarco was really lucky to land on his feet like that. To get a decent ride in any racing series in between contract seasons at all much less find oneself on a Ducati GP19 required some serious star alignment (and a raw deal for one particular Czech rider, hopeless though he was.)

    I read in another article that his goal is to move to the Ducati factory squad in 2021. That is mighty ambitious. Miller and Petrucci are both extremely familiar with the Ducati, decent performers, and will be on the newest machinery. It is hard to imagine Zarco outperforming either of those guys regularly unless Zarco is indeed the virtuoso that Gigi in betting (praying) he is.

    It is going to be tough for Zarco to make an impression this coming season, I think. Yamaha seems to be pulling its head out of the sand at long last, intent on making a bike that won’t get passed like its parked on the straight. Sporting the best rider lineup (IMO) between their factory and satellite teams, I think Yamaha could have all four riders in the top 10 for most tracks. Suzuki is also working on power improvements, and Mir is finally starting to come online. You know Marq and Dovi are going to be there, probably Cal and Miller as well. The Top 10 is practically a fortress wall in 2020 for everyone else. If Zarco is getting into the top 6 or 7 with some regularity while routinely beating Miller and Petrucci next year, then he probably does have that special something that deserves a factory ride. Otherwise, all we can probably say is that Zarco was one hell of a Yamaha rider. I am eager to find out which it is.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Zarco rides alot like Lorenzo. Gigi Dall’igna is well aware of this. Ducati had Lorenzo on a winning bike before he left.

      • TimC says:

        That’s a pretty good point.

      • Jeremy says:

        Yes, I believe that is what Gigi is hoping for. Zarco also tends (or at least has historically) to preserve tires well, maybe due to that smooth style which should prove helpful on a bike that already seems to manage tire life fairly well.

        Lorenzo started to look mighty threatening on the Ducati towards the end. And Dovi obviously does very well on it too despite a very different riding style. I am eager to see what Zarco can do on it.

    • Dave says:

      Yamaha had all 4 bikes in the top 10 at almost every race this past year and all 4 finished in the top-10 overall. Cal and Miller only beat one of the Yamahas in the overall.

      • Jeremy says:

        What I mean to say is that next year’s top 10 will not be like this years. The tip of the spear was made up of two riders this year – Marc and Dovi. Marc beat Dovi in the championship by a landslide, and Dovi in turn beat Vinales by a landslide.

        I expect all four Yamahas are going to be part of spearhead this year with both Suzukis in the mix or at least right behind. Assuming Marquez and Dovi are still there, that’s eight bikes I expect to contend just about everywhere. Then you have Danilo, Cal, and Miller. I just think the top 10 is a much more difficult goal to achieve next year as opposed to this year.

        • Dave says:

          I hope for that too. It’s always so unpredictable. Guys fly in early season testing and races then lose their way. Or in vinny’s case, have a couple unforced DNF’s (it’s pretty interesting to look at the points matrix on wikipedia) and fall too far behind in the points.

          It’s better than it was and looks to be heading farther in that direction. Who knows? Maybe the KTM’s will get fast, too..

          • Jeremy says:

            “Who knows? Maybe the KTM’s will get fast, too..”

            Now, now… We’re all speculating here, but let’s keep it reasonable. 🙂

            I am interested to see what the KTM’s do now that they seem to have accepted that the steel trellis might not be the way to go after all. I’m not expecting them to be fast yet, but I do hope to see a noticeable step forward.

          • mickey says:

            Actually the KTMs are pretty fast thru the traps. Recently at Jerez Pol Espargaro was just a couple KM slower thru the traps than Marquez’s Honda, but they are not nearly as quick at getting around the track.

          • Jeremy says:

            Yep, the KTMs are powerful. Now, they just need to figure out traction, braking, and turning.

  6. Jeff says:

    Take note: Dave gets it. Well said.

  7. viktor92 says:

    Now we will see if the Ducati it’s an easier bike than the KTM…

    • Stuki Moi says:

      If he is right about Ducati providing him with a “competitive” bike, per Ducati standards, he will be getting a bike on which winning races has proven to be very much possible. Whether Zarco can learn to ride it.., who knows. But if he can, the bike isn’t what will hold him back. On the KTM, things are nearly as clear cut.

  8. mickey says:

    I was a fan of his when he rode the Yamaha, rooted for him when he signed with KTM but feared and expected the worst. Was dissapointed when he quit KTM. Was surprised at his brief Honda stint, but think he showed his true potential on anything other than the Yamaha on that machine, and expect this Ducati ride to be much the same result as riding Takagamis Honda. Top 10-12 depending on who crashes out in front of him. Maybe the ocassional top 8. At least it’s only a one year contract and hopefully he lasts that long before the mopey face returns and he looks for greener pastures.

  9. HS1... says:

    As a supporter of both KTM and Ducati in MotoGP, the signing of this quitter by Ducati disappoints me. Maybe he will grow past folding his tent and sulking in the face of difficulty. However, he practiced these behaviors so frequently and intensely at KTM that doubts are very reasonable.

    • Dave says:

      Another way to look at him is as a motivated winner. At 29, he knows that his career should be at it’s peak and didn’t believe KTM would build him a competitive bike during his contract, when they most likely promised that they would.

      Leaving without another ride arranged was a HUGE risk. A quitter would’ve sat it out on the orange bike and collected his $millions$.

      • Jeremy says:

        That’s pretty much how I see it. I saw an interview with Zarco shortly after he left KTM. In a nutshell, he said his ambition was to become a Premier Class world champion, and at his age that meant he didn’t have too many years to get there. The KTM was so far away from becoming a winning bike that he considered another year on it a year wasted and potential injury risked for nothing.

        I agree leaving KTM with nowhere to go was a huge risk. Turning Avintia down the first time because they are no better off than KTM was also a huge risk. You have to really believe in yourself to make a leap like that. And it paid off for him. Ducati is effectively promoting Avintia just to get Zarco on their payroll. They want a top rider badly. I don’t know whether Zarco is that top rider or not, but I’m glad he’ll be on the grid next year with a decent kit.

        • mickey says:

          Jeremy, dont at least the top 20 guys have the ambition to be the premier class champion? Only going to happen to maybe 1 or 2 in a decade.

          So Zarco thinks hes better than Marquez, Petrucci, Rins, Dovisioso, Crutchlow, Vinales, Quatararo, Morbidelli, Miller, Rossi, etc all of who also have the ambition to be the Premier Class Champion?

          The guy certainly thinks highly of himself considering his record.

          • Jeremy says:

            Haha, yes Mickey, he thinks he can challenge Marquez with the right bike and team. I guess to race at this level you have to have a high opinion of yourself as you say.

            He has already said his goal for 2021 is Factory Ducati. Pretty lofty. So he has to, on the last-gen Ducati which he has never raced, with a team he has never worked with, put on a better show than Miller and Petrucci, who already have years of experience on the Ducati. And that’s just the current Ducati riders. I’m sure Ducati already has feelers out for other riders who have proven they can fight at the front, though guys like Vinales or Rins or even Fabio would be a tough sell since they are number 1 riders on their teams that would have to come in as number 2 to Dovi, initially at least. Zarco is hungry and would probably come on board cheap in the beginning even if he proves that he really does have something special with Avintia.

          • Anonymous says:

            your quote above…or is it below? says exactly what I am saying only a little more clearly I think. To quote you:

            “I expect all four Yamahas are going to be part of spearhead this year with both Suzukis in the mix or at least right behind. Assuming Marquez and Dovi are still there, that’s eight bikes I expect to contend just about everywhere. Then you have Danilo, Cal, and Miller. I just think the top 10 is a much more difficult goal to achieve next year as opposed to this year.” Jeremy

            Gonna be a tough haul for Monsieur Zarco to climb that hill all season. Like wa always say…we will see.

        • sbashir says:

          “Ducati is effectively promoting Avintia just to get Zarco on their payroll. They want a top rider badly.” That is not true. This is all Carmelo Ezpeleta’s machinations. He wants the French MotoGP promoter’s money so he was desperate to find Zarco a home. He got Karel Abraham fired from Avintia and then got Ducati to convince Zarco to join Avintia despite his reluctance. Nothing to do with Zarco’s ability, just with his French nationality. Too much backroom politics in MotoGP.

          • Jeremy says:

            Fabio has the French ticket covered and has far more star power than Zarco right now, so I doubt this particular backroom politics theory holds much water right now. With France’s ticket punched, Dorna’s business would benefit from a different nationality on that bike, likely a German, American, or someone from a SE Asian country.

      • mickey says:

        I dont follow that logic Dave.

          • mickey says:

            You understand “a quitter would have stuck it out and collected his millions?”

            Please explain that logic to me.

            Imo a quitter gives up, doesnt fulfill his contract, doesnt do anything to help the team or the development of the bike which he was hired to do, complains contantly to the press about the poor deal he has,blames everything on the team, the maunfactuer, the mechanics.

            In comparison Pol Espargaro is a class act, slways upbeat, always smiling, and is working his tail off to the best of his ability to make the KTM a better GP. machine. Espargaro is not a quitter.

      • Pedro says:

        Yup. and he didn’t quit this season – KTM generously let him go and let him ride elsewhere. It was next season he was asking to be released from.

  10. joe b says:

    Wow, great for Zarco! Ever since his first race in moto GP I have been a fan of his, but we will see how he finds the Ducati.

    • John says:

      Lets look at who has gone to Ducati and the results
      Casey Stoner – Taking big chance, even bigger chance on the new Bridgestones. Remember in 2006 if you were not on Michilins you were not winning. World Champion in 2007
      Valentino Rossi – Could not adapt, left
      Cal Crutchlow – Could not adapt, left, and the very next season Gigi Dall’Igna gets the Ducati to turn. I’m sure Cal regretted leaving so quickly.
      Jorge Lorenzo – Has a bad start, no love for the Ducati, so he and the factory agree to split, then they make the changes he requested and BOOM he is winning races, but has already committed to leave. He and Ducati regretted that I’m sure.
      We will see how Zarco does

      • Dave says:

        Did you leave Andrea Dovizio and Danilo Petrucci out on purpose? They both came from elsewhere and have done very well. Well enough that the Ducati is known as a 1st tier bike.

        • Jeremy says:

          Yep, there is no doubt that the Ducati GP is probably the most well rounded bike on the grid right now. In a world without Marc Marquez, Dovi would likely have three championships in his pocket.

        • John says:

          I left out Dovi and Petrucci as my point was more who came to Ducati and left, then who has stayed. Both of these riders have done very well with Ducati, and I agree Ducati is a first tier bike. I owned a 2004 Multistrada and currently own a 2010 Multistrada. My point was not to knock Ducati, but just pointing out some of who have come and gone. I think both Cal and Jorge regret leaving so quickly. I really like and hope Zarco does well.

          • dt-175 says:

            going further back, both polen and fogarty dominated on ducati only to flounder on a v-4 Honda. foggy came back to ducati and won two more titles. a ducati seems to be a ducati, a world championship machine if the right guy is on it. we’ll see if zarco is one…

          • Dave says:

            Ok, fair enough. Plenty have also gone on to do worse after leaving (Lorenzo & Iannone among them). Dovi himself came from the Repsol Honda team. Revolving doors..