Johann Zarco says to cut short his Red Bull KTM partnership at the end of 2019 came as a tough call to make.

KTM made the shock announcement Zarco would leave the factory team after the first season of his two-year contract, leaving a hole it its rider line-up to fill for 2020, following a difficult partnership which never got off the ground.

Zarco’s smooth style which gained him six podiums and four pole positions with Tech3 Yamaha made him one of the most highly-desired riders, with KTM winning his signature last year, but tensions developed as he was unable to gel with the KTM RC16 with his best result an underwhelming 10th place at the Catalan round.

Following another tough outing at KTM’s home round at the Red Bull Ring where he finished in 12th place, the surprise announcement followed to confirm Zarco would leave the team at the end of 2019 and not continue for 2020 in his initial two-year contract.

Zarco posted to Instagram to confirm the decision and explained his reasoning behind the call.

“It is official, I will not race with KTM Factory Racing for the 2020 MotoGP season,” Zarco said on his Instagram account. “It was a hard decision to take, I have the chance to do the best work in the world and I want to do it with the smile racing for podiums!

“As a professional, I keep focused for the rest of the 2019 season giving my best and trying to improve my skills!”

 

In a statement released by KTM announcing Zarco’s split, the Austrian manufacturer explained the decision came down to his inability to adapt to the RC16.

“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,” the KTM statement said. “While team-mate Pol Espargaro made regular Q2 qualification appearances and persistently vied for top ten positions.”

Zarco will see out the remainder of 2019 with KTM, while his future remains uncertain with effectively all the 2020 MotoGP spots filled. Only two places remain unconfirmed officially – Jack Miller at Pramac Ducati and Takaaki Nakagami at LCR Honda – but both are edging towards new deals.

That could see the French rider look to the World Superbike championship with the majority of rides still to be filled for 2020.

Zarco’s replacement at KTM also remains unclear, despite speculation brewing around Miller and Jorge Lorenzo during the Austrian race weekend, while test rider Dani Pedrosa could be considered an option, but the Spaniard had been adamant on a solely testing role when he joined KTM last winter.

KTM could look internally to its racing talent ladder, with Miguel Oliveira tipped to be promoted from satellite squad Tech3, leaving a gap to fill at Herve Poncharal’s MotoGP squad for next year.

Last month the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad confirmed its 2020 line-up of Oliveira and current Moto2 rider Brad Binder.

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