KTM replace unhappy Zarco with Kallio for end of MotoGP season

Paris (AFP) –


The KTM MotoGP team abruptly ended their troubled relationship with Johann Zarco on Tuesday saying they would replace the French rider with Finnish veteran Mika Kallio for the Aragon Grand Prix this weekend.

"We want to express gratitude to Johann for his effort since he joined our ambitious project in November last year," KTM motorsport boss Pit Beirer said.

Zarco joined the Austrian team before this season but had struggled to adapt.

The team announced in August that they had granted his request to terminate his contract after this season, saying it was the rider's decision.

The 29-year-old Zarco finished 11th in the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday while the other KTM rider, Spaniard Pol Espargaro, was seventh. With six races left, Espargaro is 11th in the overall standings with 77 points, Zarco, the most successful Frenchman in the history of MotoGP is 17th with just 27. Zarco's best result is 10th place in Catalonia in June.

Zarco was world champion in Moto2 in 2015 and 2016. He made a promising start in MotoGP for Yamaha satellite Tech3 with three podium finishes and two pole positions in both 2017 and 2018, finishing sixth in the final standings both years.

The team said it needed to focus on the development of its bike.

"We have to make decisions to ensure that we use our resources in the best possible way and we are currently in a positive direction with our MotoGP structure," said Beirer.

"We firmly believe that Mika can help us in this stage thanks to his knowledge and background.

"It is paramount that we verify our testing results in real race conditions to start our 2020 season in the best position."

Kallio is KTM's official test driver and has solid experience in lower categories with 16 victories and 49 podiums.

Zarco did not comment on Tuesday and has given no indication what he plans to do next season.

"KTM will continue supporting him until the expiry of our contract at the end of 2019 and we truly wish him all the best for his future," the team said, adding that they were in no hurry to decide who would ride for them in 2020.

"We now have to think of the future and are making this step accordingly.