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KTM Bets MotoGP Future on Pol Espargaro and Johann Zarco (Updated)

KTM has announced that it has extended Pol Espargaro’s contract with the MotoGP team through the 2020 series. As we reported earlier, his likely teammate beginning next year is Johann Zarco. Bradley Smith, apparently, will be looking for new employment.  UPDATE: On Thursday at Jerez, as we suspected, KTM also announced a two-year deal with Johann Zarco, who will be the teammate of Espargaro on the official Factory KTM MotoGP Team for two years – 2019 through 2020.

Here is the press release from KTM regarding Espargaro’s contract extension:

Pol Espargaro was one of the first recruits for KTM’s comprehensive and dedicated effort to fight with the very best teams and factories at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. The new agreement will take the Spaniard into four years representing the Austrian brand as the company eyes considerable expansion in MotoGP from 2019 onwards.

Espargaro: “It has been really easy for me to make this decision; I did not think of another possibility for even a minute. I cannot hide how happy I am being involved in this amazing project, despite the challenges and the work we still have to go through. I love the KTM philosophy and I want to continue trying to reach our goals. I don’t know when we will be able to do it, but I’m sure that we will arrive. I have to thank my whole crew for how they push and how they support me, with the leadership of my crew chief Paul Trevathan, and for sure Mike Leitner and Pit Beirer for how they strive every day. And, of course, all the people that work at the races and back at Munderfing. We are a team with an ambitious aim. I’m enjoying my best moments in the MotoGP championship, and I’m really happy to know that I’m going to continue here at least until 2020”.

Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsports Director): “Pol has been such a strong part of our project and gave us a lot of trust and belief as well as the highlights so far with two ninth positions. I’m really happy we can continue together for another two years because we can build on the work we have already done and keep progressing with the bike; he should definitely be one of the people that should benefit from everything we have achieve and learned and how we will push on in the future.”

The 26 year old, born in Granollers and in the shadow of the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya, is negotiating his fifth term in the premier class since claiming the Moto2 title in 2013. #44 has been the strongest performer on the KTM RC16 with four top ten finishes in MotoGP despite the project clocking only 21 events as a full-time member of the Grand Prix grid in the run-up to this weekend’s Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. Jeremy in TX says:

    Hey, I’m finally not typing comments black on black anymore. Thanks MD!

    • VLJ says:

      Sure, but did your post go into moderation status before finally showing up here, seemingly out of the blue?


    • Pacer says:

      Sweet right? I would type a couple if words, then use edit. The time limit just made it exciting.

  2. Pacer says:

    My offical guess.. Espargaro and Pedrosa on the factory KTM. Zarco and Kallio on the Tech3 bikes. Who’s with me?

    • Jason says:

      It sounds like Pol is locked in on the factory team so there is only one remaining seat (assuming they don’t run three factory bikes) to fight over. In that case why Pedrosa over Zarco? Pedrosa is getting old, he’s always getting hurt, and though he can be fast and has won a lot of races, he’s had more than a decade on one of the most consistently good bikes to win a championship and he still hasn’t. Zarco is relatively young and still learning and improving, not to mention qualifying on the front row and fighting for the podium more often than not for the last half a season.

      • Pacer says: just confirmed I’m wrong. I just know Tech3 was doing all they could to keep Zarco. My prediction is like calling an almost impossible pool shot. You have to call it just in case it goes in.

  3. Dave Joy says:

    Although KTM have impressed in the smaller capacity series I think it will need a little more than Espargaro and Zarco to compete in the top half a dozen places in Moto GP.
    I hear that Honda wanted to have Zarco in their team but he didn’t want to play second fiddle to Marquez, but……..wouldn’t it have been nice to see what he could do on the RC!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I’ve read that as well, but my guess would be that Marquez didn’t want Zarco. I can’t imagine that anyone with ambitions of winning the premier class championship would turn down a Repsol Honda. You do like Pedrosa did back in the day – jump at the opportunity to ride one of the best bikes on the grid, if not the best, and try to outride your teammate, even if that teammate may be one of the most talented people to ever throw a leg over a motorcycle. Perform well, and one of the other factory bikes will have an opening for him at some point should he choose. You don’t risk your career spending potential years trying to get a fledgling manufacturer up to speed.

      • PatrickD says:

        You’re flat out wrong. MM has openly declared that he has no problem with having a fast teammate.
        But Zarco’s manager has stated that Rossi blocked Zarco from getting a top-line Yamaha next year.
        Massive own-goal for Yamaha.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I might be wrong and have no issue being so, but not having MM as a teammate being the reason not to go with KTM over Repsol Honda is no good reason at all. I just can’t make that compute in my brain.

          I would not think that Marquez would reject Zarco because he is fast as the reason. But maybe he is putting a little pressure on to keep Dani (which I am pretty sure he has stated that he would like Dani to stay on) or maybe even let little brother get the seat if Dani’s time is up.

  4. VLJ says:

    Pol really hasn’t shown anything yet in MotoGP to convince anyone he’s capable of taking the KTM to the front, never mind doing so consistently enough for it to matter. Also, he’s not exactly a premier development rider, a la Colin Edwards.

    Perhaps KTM is realistic enough that they aren’t even shooting for championship-contender status with Pol, in which case, sure, they could “reach their goals” with him.

    In any case, KTM had better hope they land Zarco, and they’d better hope Zarco remains Zarco even when riding the Great Pumpkin.

  5. Vrooom says:

    Pol and Zarco certainly make a good team. It won’t be the riders fault if KTM isn’t in the hunt for a championship next year.

    • Tom R says:

      KTM will finish 8th or 9th on the track, but 1st in the color scheme category.

  6. Trent says:

    Well, the looks of the bike and the suit certainly make a statement.

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