Johann Zarco is facing an uncertain MotoGP future after the shock announcement that he will leave the factory KTM team after the first season of a two-year contract.

The Frenchman, whose smooth-style brought six podiums and four poles at Tech3 Yamaha, has struggled to adapt to the aggressive nature of the RC16 with a best finish of tenth.

There has also been tension over whether Zarco should adapt more to the KTM, or the KTM change to suit Zarco's strengths.

Either way, the 29-year-old gave a reminder of his talents by claiming the factory's first front row in damp conditions at Brno earlier this month and few expected his two-year contract would be shredded early - not least because almost all 2020 MotoGP seats are already in place.

'Johann Zarco and Red Bull KTM will not complete the second season of a two-year agreement together in 2020. The former Moto2 World Champion and the factory team have mutually decided to end his stint in orange at the end of the 2019 campaign,' said a KTM statement.

'The 29 year old joined KTM towards the end of 2018 after his second term in MotoGP and for his first with full-factory support. Zarco tried to adapt his riding style to the KTM RC16 and the team tried relentlessly to mould the #5 machine to the Frenchman’s wishes and requirements while teammate Pol Espargaro made regular Q2 qualification appearances and persistently vied for top ten positions.

'Ultimately both Johann and the team decided not to proceed with their joint project for 2020 and will now focus on giving the maximum for the final eight rounds and remaining months of MotoGP 2019.'

But it seems it was Zarco that requested the early KTM split and there have even been doubts about whether he will finish the current season.

"If Zarco stops, test rider Mika Kallio will take his place until the end of the season," KTM board member Hubert Trunkenpolz told

A double Moto2 world champion, Zarco's subsequent Tech3 success meant he had interest from almost every factory for 2019 and his signature (influenced by former manager Laurent Fellon) was seen as something of a coup for KTM.

It is not clear if Zarco has alternative plans in place for next season, but on paper only two seats are available in MotoGP; Takaaki Nakagami's place at LCR Honda and Jack Miller's Pramac Ducati seat. However, there are plenty of top World Superbike rides still up for grabs.

In terms of Zarco's replacement at KTM, Miller would have been the obvious choice given the recent rumours about Jorge Lorenzo and Pramac, plus the Australian's past KTM links in Moto3.

But Miller sounds confident he will now keep the Desmosedici ride. Likewise, it seems Lorenzo will stay at Repsol Honda.

Trunkenpolz said he would ideally like new KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa to come out of retirement.

"My preferred solution would be a rider duo of Pol Espargaró and Dani Pedrosa," he told Speedweek. "But Dani has signed a test driver contract and explicitly stated that he is not available for racing. Nevertheless, we will definitely ask him again, because we have a new situation. But the decision is Dani's. Whatever he decides, we will accept his answer."

It seems unlikely Pedrosa will want to race again, so might KTM instead promote impressive Tech3 rookie Miguel Oliveira to join established team leader Espargaro?

The Portuguese is ahead of Zarco in the world championship and, although confirmed as staying with the satellite French squad in 2020, his contract is directly with KTM.

If Oliveira does move it would leave a space alongside 2020 Tech3 rookie Brad Binder.

Moto2 title leader Alex Marquez is still to sign but may be wary of the RC16, while the likes of Marcel Schrotter and Xavi Vierge might also be attractive to Tech3/KTM. Most Moto2 riders have a contract clause that allows them to depart if a MotoGP ride becomes available.

The Zarco split is the second major KTM news in as many days, the factory having announced a withdraw from the Moto2 class on Sunday.

In contrast to Zarco's woes, Espargaro is currently tenth in the world championship, already scoring more points than in any previous KTM season. He also has almost three times as many points as Zarco.

Part of the KTM project since its 2017 debut, Espargaro took the team's first podium in the wet at Valencia last year and is currently tenth in the world championship. Oliveira is 15th, Zarco 17th and Hafizh Syahrin 25th. Syahrin is set to lose his Tech3 seat to Binder.

In the constructors' standings, KTM is 22 points clear of Aprilia, which is the only other manufacturer eligible for technical concessions.



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