Although all our attentions are centered in the first MotoGP race of the season, in Qatar everyone has been talking about rider contracts and who is going where. One of the hottest names in the paddock is French rider Johann Zarco, teammate of Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team.
Zarco managed to secure the first pole-position of the 2018 MotoGP season, and he’s the rider every team manager wants to secure for 2019 onwards.
When everyone thought that Zarco would move on to KTM together with the Tech3 team and Hervé Poncharal, suddenly the future of the super-fast French rider seems to be uncertain, with more teams looking to reach an agreement with him.
At the Losail paddock, Johann Zarco’s manager has been in talks with Honda and also Suzuki.
HRC seems to be looking for someone to replace, most probably, Dani Pedrosa, a veteran rider that has been faithful to Honda all over these years but hasn’t been able to get the Japanese manufacturer the results that everyone expected him to deliver, especially when we think he’s been a 125 cc and 250 cc world champion.
Joining in the negotiations is Suzuki, with Davide Brivio, Ecstar Suzuki team manager, looking to form a dream team composed by Johann Zarco and Alex Rins. In this case, it would be Italian Andrea Iannone to be left out of the Suzuki factory team.
But soon, another player will enter into this negotiation game: Yamaha!
That’s right, the Japanese manufacturer didn’t give Hervé Poncharal the factory support the French manager asked for Johann Zarco and the Tech3 team, and that, combined with an offer Poncharal couldn’t refuse from KTM, made Tech3 end the link with Yamaha and from 2019 they will race KTM machinery in MotoGP. Yamaha always said that factory support was exclusive for Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi, both riders already confirmed in the factory Yamaha team for another two years.
But now, Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Racing, probably because of Johann Zarco pole position for the GP of Qatar and seeing rival teams trying to get Zarco from Yamaha, has come out publicly admitting Yamaha wants to retain the services of the French rider.
And how will Yamaha try to convince Johann Zarco to continue racing for them? By giving him a factory prototype. Just like the one Viñales and Rossi race.
Lin Jarvis has admitted to the press at Losail that he’s thinking of getting a factory Yamaha M1 for Zarco, something he always denied Yamaha would do, but because the factory team already has two riders under contract, Yamaha is looking to fit Zarco on a secondary team with factory support
“We will try to retain Johann Zarco, he’s very fast, it’s a shame we can only have two bikes in the official team. We already have Maverick and Valentino, there’s no more room in the factory team. There’s a chance to give a factory bike to a third rider, so we’re thinking about it. But this is something we need to discuss together with a contract with a new team”, said Jarvis.