KTM has called the trust shown by Johann Zarco in their plans for MotoGP “a big honour” after months of speculation regarding the Frenchman’s future were put to bed at Jerez, with an announcement confirming he will ride for the Austrian factory alongside Pol Espargaro in 2019 and ’20.

Pit Beirer, KTM’s Motorsport Director, described Zarco’s attitude as “refreshing”, and believes his promise to nurture the “family feeling” in the factory team was key to attaining the double Moto2 world champion’s signature. “It was really one of the highlights of my management career talking to him,” said Beirer.

Not that the German, who also oversees KTM’s extensive off-road programme, feels Zarco’s signing alone will propel the quickly developing RC16 to the front of the class. Time and again he reiterated the need for KTM “to lift our project to his level,” while stating he feels pressure not to “destroy [Zarco’s] career.”

“If you just look at the ranking, he [Zarco] is now riding at a level where we have never been,” Beirer told Crash.net. “It’s one thing to sign a guy like him; another thing much more difficult is also to be a partner that means he can stay at that level. It’s clear at the moment: we need to make another step forward and be a good partner for him.



“And I feel fully responsible for that because I don’t want to destroy his career, to take him down from his level to our level. I want to lift our project to his level. Then if we are face-to-face, what we are clearing up at the moment, because we are a step lower, then we’ll try to make the next step together – even to win races, which he also didn’t prove yet on a regular basis.

“All in all, it’s nice for me to have these signatures now but there is a lot of responsibility behind it. We need to work like crazy to make the next step with our bike.”

Back in March Zarco had teased reporters, stating he was considering an offer from Repsol Honda to ride alongside Marc Marquez in 2019. Beirer insisted he was unaware of such talks (at Jerez rumours circulated the Frenchman had signed as early as the end of last year), but feels the 27-year old’s experience with Aki Ajo’s Moto2 team – now KTM’s official intermediate category entry – was enough to convey he could find the necessary trusting environment within its garage.

“I don’t know who he was talking to but it was refreshing and nice and really one of the highlights of my management career to talk to him and his manager [Laurent Fellon] - I don’t want to call Laurent a manager; more of a friend, partner and training buddy – and how quick they decided with us," said Beirer.

“They looked at our factory, they looked at our effort. They know us from the past and they said, ‘I trust these guys and with these guys we can create the family feeling,’ which is what Johann wants. He doesn’t want to have a ‘job’ and win races. He wants to feel he’s fighting for a team and for a family.

“All of this, we could offer. But it’s a big honour that he is giving us this trust. I repeat: we need to make a step to be a strong partner for him. But he can see that [although] there is a huge risk for him, also there is a chance, because if he can make some small steps, it could also be an advantage at one moment. I’m really honoured by his signature.”

On re-signing Espargaro for his third and fourth seasons, Beirer offered: “In our place the loyalty factor is counting a lot. Also Pol, he took a risk coming into our new project and it’s clear that you take away the chances of the riders to present themselves at the same level as before [signing with KTM]. He gave us highlights of this project.

“This is pure commitment and just overriding problems until he makes a great result or is crashing. We felt responsible for him, just to give him another chance. There is no reason not to take him. He’s a nice guy. He’s clicking with the whole team. He has a positive spirit. He’s never negative – he always believes the next part from KTM is always better than the last one, which is a danger part, like we found out.

“Now we need to ask more critical questions because he trusts us so much, if he hears there is a new part, he wants it on the bike right away on Friday morning. We are now at a level where new parts can also be negative. But all in all we wanted him because he fits with us and we also believe in him. With a better bike and a stronger team partner, we can also bring him on a higher level, where he should ride.”

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