Johann Zarco will switch to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in 2019 after signing a two-year contract with the Austrian team. The Frenchman moves from Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to partner Pol Espargaro, who has also signed a new two-year contract, with Bradley Smith set to depart.
Zarco impressed throughout his debut MotoGP campaign, taking podium finishes at Le Mans, Sepang and Valencia, and has already taken a pole position and a rostrum early in 2018. KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer is delighted to welcome the former Red Bull Rookies champion on board and believes he has the capabilities to move the team up a level.
“There has always been a good contact with Johann and since the Red Bull Rookies Cup. We supported the Moto2 project through WP and our Moto3 Team Manager Aki Ajo is a good friend of him. We also have a nice connection with his manager Laurent Fellon. It was a group effort to get this done. 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. 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.”
“It is clear that we want to take another step in MotoGP. The first two years were about building up the project and to get everything running. You always want to get the best possible riders on board and it’s obvious with Johann beating the factory guys on satellite machinery and consistently qualifying on the front row means he is a strong fighter with a strong sprit. I’m convinced we can reach the next level with a rider like Johann with us.”
Espargaro is equally excited to about the challenge ahead and feels KTM will enjoy the best years of his Grand Prix career.
“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”