Zarco to join KTM in 2019

Johann Zarco will leave Tech3 Yamaha to join KTM in 2019. (Reuters pic)

MATTIGHOFEN: French rider Johann Zarco, last year’s MotoGP Rookie of the Year, has signed a two-year deal to join the Red Bull-backed KTM factory team from 2019.

The Austrian team have also confirmed Spanish rider Pol Espargaro is staying, leaving the UK’s Bradley Smith without a ride.

Zarco is a two-time Moto2 champion and has been a consistent frontrunner with the non-factory Tech3 Yamaha team since he stepped up to MotoGP.

KTM made their MotoGP debut in 2017 and are also-rans in a top category where Italian manufacturer Ducati provides the main challenge to major Japanese manufacturers Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki.

“We had to trust in our capability to build a winning bike, and Johann would not come over if he did not see and feel that trust,” said KTM motorsports director Pit Beirer in a statement at the Spanish Grand Prix on Thursday.

“We feel very responsible now to get that package strong enough so that he can continue on the level where he is. It is our big target.”

“Johann beating the factory guys on satellite machinery and consistently qualifying on the front row means he is a strong fighter with a strong spirit. I’m convinced we can reach the next level with a rider like Johann with us.”