Zarco had already turned his back on a Suzuki ride, and blames his (ex-) manager for messing up a chance to replace Pedrosa at Honda this year – the plum ride that Lorenzo took. But with Rossi and Vinales firmly settled in the factory Yamaha team, he wanted more. So, even before the first race of last year, he had already decided to join KTM, the determined and (through Red Bull) well-funded Austrian team striving to make its mark in the premier class, after joining in 2017. Over its first two years, KTM had made progress, but was still only an infrequent visitor to the top ten. But the commitment was clear, and the additional lure for Zarco was full factory support.
Well, it was a disaster from the off. Another silky-smooth rider who had meshed well with the in-line-four Yamaha, Zarco found himself completely at odds with the V4 KTM. His theoretically junior team-mate Pol Espargaro, whose riding style is all-action and aggressive, easily outranked him. Johann was completely at odds. Every time he pushed, he said, he would fall off.
It didn’t help when he was filmed at Jerez, the first European round, raging in the pits after yet another tumble about “a shit chassis, and a shit engine”.
At round 11 in Austria, home race for both Red Bull and KTM, Zarco requested early termination of his two-year contract. He meant at the end of 2019. KTM were happy to drop him after just two more races.
Zarco is now in the wilderness. There are no worthwhile seats available, and the best he can hope for is a test-rider slot, probably with Yamaha. He’s good enough to deserve it, but then again Yamaha now has Quartararo waiting in the wings for when Rossi quits.