KTM has officially confirmed that Johann Zarco will race for its factory MotoGP team in 2019 and 2020.

The Frenchman has been a revelation since joining MotoGP with Monster Yamaha Tech3 at the start of last season - scoring four podiums, three pole positions, regularly leading races and twice getting within a fraction of a first ever satellite Yamaha MotoGP win.

Although Tech3 is confirmed as switching to KTM in 2019, Herve Poncharal knew he had only a very slim chance of retaining Zarco – openly stating that the 27-year-old deserved to ride for an official team.

The Zarco-Red Bull KTM rumours have been rife since last November, although Repsol Honda and Suzuki also expressed an interest in the double Moto2 champion. However, Suzuki turned Zarco down for 2017 in favour of Alex Rins, while the Honda seat would have been as number two to world champion Marc Marquez.

Zarco will join the continuing Pol Espargaro - re-signed on Wednesday - with Bradley Smith losing out.

Zarco was the first Red Bull Rookies Cup champion, in 2007, prior to the start of his grand prix career. The 27-year-old is presently tied on points with Cal Crutchlow for fourth in the MotoGP standings, and top satellite honours.

“There has always been a good contact with Johann since the Red Bull Rookies Cup," said KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer. "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."

A satellite Yamaha rider has never won a four-stroke MotoGP race, but Zarco finished just 0.337s from victory at Valencia last year and lost out to Crutchlow by just 0.251s in Argentina this year. The Frenchman also featured in the race lead at every event from Phillip Island 2017 until Austin 2018.

But choosing KTM over the likes of Honda and Suzuki is something of a brave decision, with the RC16 yet to take a significant step forward in its second season. KTM's best result so far this year is eleventh place and they are currently sixth and last in the constructors' championship.

The new Tech3 KTM seats are still to be decided, although at least one machine is expected to go to either Miguel Oliveira or Brad Binder, the factory's official Moto2 riders.

KTM joins only Movistar Yamaha in completing its 2019 rider-up.

 

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