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Johann Zarco Reportedly Moving to KTM MotoGP for 2019

Johann Zarco celebrating one of his pole positions with Tech 3 Yamaha

With his contract expiring this year, Johann Zarco (presently aboard a Tech 3 Yamaha) is understandably the focus of intense recruiting efforts from multiple manufacturers running MotoGP teams. With four podiums and three pole positions in just over a year in the class, Zarco is viewed as fast, consistent and smart. He has two Moto2 World Championships to his credit.

He has a prior relationship with KTM, and his current team (Tech 3) is switching from Yamaha to KTM bikes next year. The SpeedWeek website (reportedly owned by Red Bull, a KTM sponsor) is reporting that Zarco agreed to a two-year deal with KTM in Austin last weekend. An official announcement is expected shortly, and perhaps at the next race at Jerez on May 6.

Honda also showed an interest in hiring Zarco, but, among other reasons, Zarco is said to have shown distaste for the prospect of being a junior teammate to Marc Marquez.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonder if Tech3 will run WP or Ohlins suspension?

    • Anonymous says:

      While WP has made leaps and bounds recently, traditionally, KTM was always held back by their suspension. Regardless of that, Ohlins must really know what they’re doing if everyone BUT KTM runs their products.

  2. Gunner says:

    When mentioning Mr Rossi, please do not forget he is still one of the most powerful persons in terms of marketing value, not only as a (still) very good rider. His followers at most races, specially in Europe, outnumber all other rider’s fans. He is BIG even compared to other forms of motorsport, his influence on sponsors, the FIM and manufacturers simply can not be overestimated.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      And besides that, he is still one of the fastest.

      • Pacer says:

        Yup, they all say he is past his prime, and this is true. What they fail to mention is that he is still in the mix and winning races in the top series in the Galaxy! Would love to see Marquez and Rossi square off when both were in their prime.

  3. 5229 says:

    I’m gonna set off the fire works here tonight. Zarco rides the Yamaha very well. With that said he should stay on a Yamaha. Only one problem,whos the satellite Yamaha team going to be? In a perfect world Rossi retires and Zarco is a shoe in on a Movistar Yamaha along side Vinales. What a one-two punch the FACTORY Yamaha team would have. But no,Rossi threw a monkey wrench in the works. Rossi should have retired after this year and do it gracefully. For example in the NFL a couple of Quarterback’s come to mind who retired while on top. Peyton Manning and John Elway. THAT’S how you do it. So the real issue here is Rossi. Zarco is on the rise and Rossi is on the decline.

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Rossi finished 5 seconds and 2 places ahead of Zarco in Austin. I’m pretty sure when Rossi feels like he doesn’t have a chance to win he’ll say goodbye. Had Marquez not taken him out in Argentina he’d be right there in the points hunt. Most fans of sport love the older guys for the character they bring. Antonio Cairoli is nearing the end of a brilliant career. So too is Chad Reed. They’ve earned the right to retire on their own terms.

      Personally, I always feel a bit cheated when guys retire on top: Ryan Dungey, Ricky Carmichael, Casey Stoner…

      • Bob K says:

        “Personally, I always feel a bit cheated when guys retire on top: Ryan Dungey, Ricky Carmichael, Casey Stoner…”
        I agree with you on that. However, there’s guys like Loris Capirossi who was consistently one of the last people to cross the finish his last 3 seasons. As much as liked him in his hey-day, it was a sad way to end his career, barely earning any points race after race. And knowing his days were numbered, he never pushed it enough to do his team justice. So there’s a limit to how long they should hang on. Rossi isn’t there and he’s smart enough to not let that happen to his legacy.

        I like rooting for the older guys because I’m older and it’s fun to show the young whipper-snappers we’re not ready for the rocking chair on the front porch yet. Like my dad did with me when I was younger, showing me he could keep up in lots of things, with that father-son rivalry.

    • Dave says:

      Rossi still is on top. He may not be as dominant as Marquez, but who else is better and more consistent than him, that Yamaha could hire?

      Results notwithstanding, I think most Americans fail to grasp his level of celebrity. I often joke that his 2nd’s and 3rd’s are worth more from a marketing perspective than Marquez’ wins and championship. This guy is loved the world over. When he’s no longer worth it, Yamaha will simply stop agreeing to pay.

  4. MacSpoone says:

    So lemme get this straight…
    Zarco’s moving to KTM next year.
    Just like Tech 3.

    Got it.
    Zarco’s staying with Tech 3 when they all switch over to KTM.


  5. bmbktmracer says:

    Let’s don our business suits for a second… KTM enters MotoGP and hires a couple of really good riders that no one expects to podium. Safe. They’re fast enough to help develop the bike, but poor finishes are no embarrassment to the company. Now you hire Zarco. 2x Moto2 champ. MotoGP podium finisher. It’d be a huge shame to the company for the guy to come home in 10th to 12th every race. No one in a suit at KTM would hire Zarco unless they believe they’ll have a competitive machine next year.

  6. Vrooom says:

    If he’s teamed with Pol Espargo it will be a strong team rider wise. I think KTM is a second or two off the pace this year, and that’s a lot to make up for in a year. Perhaps in 2020 they’ll have found the pace, and he’ll be able to provide input. Still Yamaha, Honda or Ducati would be the more logical place for him to land.

    • bartman50 says:

      It’s weird how things work. KTM actually had one of the highest top speeds at COTA, 133.4, yet circulates the track more than two seconds of the pace od the faster teams. This speaks to some high horsepower numbers. So I would assume that both handling and getting the power to the track are a couple of the major issues KTM is facing. Chassis configurations and engine placement as well as the spout of electronics are so important to lap times. And maybe just small changes in either or both might bring KTM much closer to the faster teams. We know Espargaro is a fast and talented rider.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        Two things. Pol Espargaro wasn’t running at the front before going to KTM (3 years on a Yamaha without a single podium), and didn’t do too badly at COTA compared to some other satellite riders (beating several Hondas and finishing within a few seconds of Petrucci and Lorenzo), despite starting with a 3 position grid penalty. Second, KTM is sticking with a steel frame at this point, and this might have caused unique problems at the bumpy COTA circuit. After watching Suzuki develop, I wouldn’t be surprised if KTM has a reasonably competitive bike underneath Zarco next year.

  7. Wendy says:

    In two years we will be posting “what ever happened to Jonny Zarco?”

  8. Pacer says:


  9. HS1... says:

    Is KTM a shoe-in to consistently podium within the next two years?, uh, no. But, it isn’t unreasonable to think that a company with their competiton history, resources, and dedication will make major advances with a good rider and another year of development time. Why not give them a go if the offer is lucrative and one of the “already there” factory teams isn’t making an attractive offer. Yamaha and Honda each have a strong personality entrenched in control and that limits the attractiveness of offers they can make. KTM has become competitive in every other endeavor they have attempted in to-date.

  10. bmbktmracer says:

    It didn’t take long for KTM to win in the Moto2 series. They dominate US and World motocross racing. At Qatar, Bradley Smith qualified 1.9 seconds behind Zarco, who qualified first. Give back a second for the better rider and the KTM is less than a second off fast time. I’d not underestimate KTM going into 2019.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      All one has to build in Moto2 is a chassis. It isn’t comparable in my opinion. KTM has a long way to go. I could be wrong, but I don’t expect them to be a podium threat in 2019, or even a top 5 threat, not even with Zarco. Top 10? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    • Vrooom says:

      A second a lap is pretty generous, and while Bradley Smith isn’t Zarco, Pol Espargo is a good rider, and not close either. He’ll help KTM, and seems faster than Espargo, but they need to pick up 20-40 seconds over race distance, it might take a few more years. Aprilia is closer, but not there. Still, it won’t be the rider slowing them down, Vinales at Suzuki seems a good analogy.

  11. Trpldog says:

    They must know something we don’t.
    I suppose.

    • XR650Lover says:

      Yamaha actually severed the relationship to make room for the (eventual) appearance of the VR46 team. has had some interesting commentary about all of the mess.

  12. Bob K says:

    “Honda also showed an interest in hiring Zarco, but, among other reasons, Zarco is said to have shown distaste for the prospect of being a junior teammate to Marc Marquez.”
    This statement sparks interest because it sounds like HRC might actually be looking to replace Pedrosa. While an amazing rider, as no. 2 on the team, lately, he hasn’t been able to directly finish in between Marquez and the next fastest riders to create a wider point spread for the Championship.

    • spokes says:

      Honda wants Alex Marquez to replace Dani Pedrosa.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I think Honda would prefer Joan Mir or Morbidelli, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some pressure from the elder Marquez to graduate lil brother.

        • Pacer says:

          Marc VDS is goning to Suzuki, and will bring Morbidelli with them.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            They would like to take Morbidelli with them, but I’m not sure they will be able to unless a satellite (albeit a full factory Suzuki with support) is more than what Honda or perhaps even a new satellite Yamaha team is willing to offer.

          • Pacer says:

            I think he is under contract with VDS. I haven’t seen anything encouraging to do with a Yamaha satellite team. I would be wary of that.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            He is signed through 2019, but I thought that his contract was directly with Honda? Maybe not.

          • Pacer says:

            Could be wrong, but I read the contract was with VDS. I think this was a big part why Yamaha was courting them.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I think you might be right. It may have been Nakagami that got contracted directly through Honda, though what he did to earn that or even get into the premier class is beyond me.

  13. Bob K says:

    Maybe there’s the expectation that KTM will have improved significantly after 2 years in the class. Plus being the new top dog will see him given priority in providing input into refining the machine. Possibly more money in it too.

  14. Jeremy in TX says:

    I must admit, this caught me by surprise. I can’t imagine why someone with this much potential would make a move to KTM at the his point. It just doesn’t quite compute to me.

    • VLJ says:

      His team announced their switch to KTM a couple of months ago. He’s sticking with his comfortable French team.

      I’m sure the $$$ also had something to do with it.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I knew Tech 3 was going KTM. I just thought for sure that would mean that Zarco would be going somewhere else. Who knows though. He has amazed on a satellite Yamaha. Maybe he’ll amaze, or at least do much better than expected, on a KTM.

      • P Harris says:

        How many factory, not satellite , rides are their for the taking. 2 years and he can move on, or 2 years and good results he’s a hero. Worth a shot.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Well, Honda, Ducati and Suzuki all have potential factory seats up for grabs. I know there is some bad blood between Zarco and Suzuki, so I understand why he might dismiss them. I think I’d be fighting pretty hard for the Honda or Ducati spot though. To agree to a satellite KTM team this early in the season seems to be jumping the gun a bit for someone with his results so far.

  15. VLJ says:

    It was nice knowing you, Johann. You’ll be missed.


    -The Guys At The Front Of The Pack Every Weekend

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