Johann Zarco has been dropped by KTM and will be replaced by Mika Kallio for the remainder of the 2019 MotoGP campaign.
KTM had previously accepted Zarco’s request to be released from his two-year contract at the end of the season. This came following the Frenchman’s difficult start to the season. However, Zarco has now been dropped with immediate effect. He will, however, remain under contract with KTM until the end of 2019.
In a statement released by KTM, their Motorsport Director, Pit Beirer, said:
“We have to make decisions to ensure that we use our resources in the best possible way and we are currently in a positive direction with our MotoGP structure. We firmly believe that Mika can help us in this stage thanks to his knowledge and background. It is paramount that we verify our testing results in real race conditions to start our 2020 season in the best position. Mika has proved his ability on the RC16 and we are happy that he joins the line-up as a racer again. There is no doubt that we will focus on a new configuration with the #82 bike while fighting for points in the last races of the championship.
“At the same time we want to express gratitude to Johann for his effort since he joined our ambitious project in November last year. We now have to think of the future and are making this step accordingly. KTM will continue supporting him until the expiry of our contract at the end of the 2019 and we truly wish him all the best for his future.”
His removal from the team means that Zarco’s KTM career lasted only 13 races. He joined the team after two successful years with Tech 3 Yamaha, where he secured six podiums. He also achieved four pole positions and was widely tipped to be a future race winner.
Unfortunately, the two-time Moto2 World Champion would be unable to adapt to the RC16 machine. His best result for KTM was 10th at the Catalan Grand Prix. He sits 17th in the championship standings. The only real highlight of Zarco’s short KTM career was the front-row start at Brno, achieved in the wet.
Kallio rode the KTM on its MotoGP debut at Valencia in 2016. He has taken a best finish of 10th (twice) during seven wild-cards for the team. He also has 16 victories and 49 podiums in the lower classes. The Finn currently shares testing duties with Dani Pedrosa.
It’s not clear what the future holds for Zarco. The majority of the field are contracted until the end of the 2020 season. This means that a test rider position, with potential wildcard appearances, is his best option for next year. He will then hold out hope for a full-time return in 2021.