Johann Zarco has taken the biggest decision of his MotoGP career by choosing to join KTM next season, rather than reigning champion's Honda.

The Frenchman is understood to have been in discussions with as many as four different manufacturers following his heroics on the satellite Tech3 Yamaha.

But, as had been rumoured since last November, it was KTM - currently sixth and last in the constructors' standings - that won his signature for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

"I'm really happy that I can officially announce here in Jerez," Zarco said on Thursday.

"For sure the chance with Honda is quite amazing for a rider, but the way KTM wanted me and also this challenge to be with a European constructor as a European rider gives me a lot of motivation.

"Together with my coach [Laurent Fellon], that I still have a very close relationship with for motorbikes - he really feels the bike is good and we can do great things. I trust him and that's why we want to go for that challenge."

Zarco explained that, in order to win at Honda, he would still have to raise his level to match that of four (perhaps five) time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, on the other side of the garage.

And if you need to reach Marquez's level at Honda, the question becomes 'what could Marquez achieve on the KTM?'

"I didn't say I don't want to be the team-mate of Marc! He is a nice guy and it can be interesting," Zarco said.

"What I said is - and also it's the question we were thinking with my coach - is if you are next to Marc and you want to win races, you have to be strong like him and maybe stronger.

"So this means I must improve a lot my riding style. Then we were thinking, 'if you have this riding level it means you can be fast also with KTM'. So we believe in that and that's why we want this challenge.

"Because we were thinking, so if you put Marc on the KTM, where can the KTM be?

"This is question many guys want to know and – I'm not saying I'm like Marc – I just say I want to reach this level of riding and see where I will be on the KTM with that riding level."


Much of Zarco's success on the M1 has been put down to studying the smooth riding style of triple Yamaha title winner Jorge Lorenzo.

But the Spaniard has struggled since switching to the more aggressive Ducati. Is Zarco not afraid of a similar fate on the RC16?

"That's the question mark. My coach trusts that I can adapt well and that the things I've learned during two years with the Yamaha and the MotoGP category will help me a lot.

"The way I'm riding, he says 'if you stay in this way it's going to work well also with the KTM'.

"So I must be confident and not worry, but for sure it's a question mark I cannot answer very well.

"Seeing what Jorge is doing between the Yamaha and the Ducati, for sure I can wonder, but I don’t have the same situation as him.

"If we get good results and develop the bike we can have a fantastic future and the way they [KTM] were improving last year made me think something is possible.

"I had the choice and I went there because I want to play with this challenge. My feeling is really good in MotoGP now. I enjoy it so much, the performance is good too and I hope to stay at this level for the next two years."

Zarco unsurprisingly steered clear of any predications or targets for next season - "this we're going to answer in November when we start the test" - but gave a clear answer when quizzed on whether crew chief Guy Coulon would be moving with him to KTM.

"No, he is at Tech3 since the beginning and next year he has the challenge in his own team with Herve to develop the KTM in association with the factory team," Zarco said, referring to the Tech3 team's new deal as the satellite KTM team.

"You cannot remove Guy from the Tech3 team."

Turning to this weekend's Spanish MotoGP, where Zarco played a starring role on his way to fourth a year ago, the former Moto2 champion is hoping the twisty track can negate the engine advantage enjoyed by the factory riders and fuel a victory challenge.

"I try to do the best everywhere, but coming back to Europe, on a track a little bit smaller - this is going to be a chance for us with our engine to fight for the victory because the first three races you can feel sometimes that you miss a bit of power and here in Europe it's quite difficult to use all the power of your bike.

"So it means a better chance for me to fight for victory. Honda did a test here - they are not the only one, but they should be stronger at the beginning - but if we feel good with the bike and tyres why not think about the victory?"

Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith have formed KTM's line-up for its first two MotoGP seasons. Espargaro will remain alongside Zarco for 2019.



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