KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has told German media that Johann Zarco is the ‘only MotoGP rider I am seriously considering’ to form part of the Austrian marque’s line–up for the 2019 season.
2017 marked KTM‘s first season as a factory entrant in the premier class, with the team finishing fifth in the constructors’ standings ahead of Aprilia by five points on 69, while both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith ended the year 17th and 21st respectively, having amassed 84 points between them.
With KTM making huge progress in its debut season, and expected to do so again in 2018, speculation over its 2019 future has already begun, as most riders are out of contract at the end of next year.
Already rumours of KTM poaching newly-crowned four-time world champion Marc Marquez from Honda have begun to circulate.
Pierer is well aware of the speculation surrounding his team and has labelled them ‘interesting’, but insists only Zarco – who finished 2017 as top rookie in sixth in the standings and with three podiums for the Tech3 team – is on his radar.
“When I look at the championship table, there’s no-one I can think of except Zarco (to join KTM), to be honest,” Pierer told Speedweek.com.
“He won the Moto2 World Championship for two years with Aki Ajo, and won the Red Bull Rookies Cup on a KTM. He knows KTM.
“If you ask me, I would say this is the only MotoGP rider that I’m seriously considering for 2019.”
Pierer‘s reluctance to consider Marquez for his team stems from the Spaniard’s success in MotoGP, and the potential fallout that would occur should he prove unable to win on the KTM.
On top of that, signing Marquez would stop KTM from nurturing its young talent from the Rookies Cup, through Moto3 and Moto2, and into the premier class.
“I’m quite honest: Marquez is such a unique talent, in a league of his own,” he said.
“If he wins, it is Marquez. If he loses, my motorcycle is to blame.
“Moreover, such a signing would be counterproductive to our junior program, which we have built so carefully.”