Johann Zarco

Mika Kallio Replaces Johann Zarco In Factory KTM Team For Rest Of 2019 Season

KTM have decided to replace Johann Zarco effective immediately. From Aragon until the end of 2019, current KTM test rider Mika Kallio will take the place of the Frenchman in the factory Red Bull KTM team.

Though the decision comes as a surprise to the outside world, it makes sense from the perspective of KTM. Zarco has announced his intention to leave at the end of the season, and given his options are limited for 2020, is looking at becoming a test rider, and has been linked to a possible vacancy at Yamaha. With so much work happening on the KTM RC16, and a constant flow of new parts in the garage, KTM have decided it is better to have test rider Mika Kallio on the bike than keeping Johann Zarco.

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Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Old Rivalries Rekindled, Why Yamaha Is Fast, And The Value Of Dani Pedrosa To KTM

A race track is a large place. 4+ kilometers of asphalt, 15 meters wide. A MotoGP bike is a small thing, under 2 meters long from nose to tip, and 60 centimeters wide. The bikes should get lost in the vast expanse of asphalt on track. Yet somehow, these tiny vehicles always seem to run across each other on track.

The riders are to blame, of course. There are advantages to be gained from following other riders around. In Moto3, a slipstream is vital to gaining extra speed. In MotoGP, using a rider ahead as a target allows you to judge your braking points better and gives that extra bit of motivation which is worth a tenth or two. And a tenth or two can mean starting a row ahead of where you would otherwise.

When bikes meet on the track, it always sparks resentment. The rider in front is annoyed at being followed, and will slow down to try to force the other rider in front. The rider behind gets annoyed by the antics of the person they are trying to follow. In the best case, it is all soon forgotten. In the worst case, well, it involves Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi and a small war breaks out in the Italian and Spanish press, and a much bigger war breaks out among the fans.

Old rivalries

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KTM MotoGP Tech Director Sebastian Risse Interview, Part 1: On Progress, And Building A Bike For Different Riding Styles

KTM came into MotoGP with big ambitions. At the presentation of their MotoGP project at their home Grand Prix in Austria in 2016, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer was clear: "For sure we will face a learning curve when we go into a segment but we will reach the podium and the dream of my life is to be world champion in MotoGP." The learning curve has been steep indeed, but in two-and-a-half seasons, the KTM RC16 has gone from the back of the grid to closing in on the top five.

Is that fast enough for KTM? At Silverstone, I spoke to Sebastian Risse, KTM's MotoGP Technical Director, about the progress of the project and the lessons learned along the way. He was open about the toughness of the challenge, the highs and lows along the way, and the development trajectory of the bike.

The interview covered a lot of ground, including the benefits of having four riders in stead of two, the role played by Dani Pedrosa, and the process by which the feedback from riders is turned into a MotoGP machine.

The interview is in two parts. To kick off the first part of the interview, I wanted to get an old question out of the way which has been discussed many times. Would KTM be sticking with a steel trellis frame and WP suspension?

Sebastian Risse: Basically this is something outstanding, something different compared to our competitors. Historically we have a lot of experience with steel frames. Every class we conquered as KTM. Basically we finally conquered with the steel frame. So we learned how to use it for various very different applications, how to achieve different targets. We don’t see any point at the moment where we restrict ourselves in using it. In the other hand, we want to use it as our strong point because we know how to handle this material. We have the process. We are quick in making, modifying, updating. We would also give up on this if we would start something with a different material.

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Misano MotoGP Test Thursday Notes: Yamaha Lead On Busy Day Of Testing

The advantage of a private test is that work can take place away from the prying eyes of the media. Some of the MotoGP manufacturers, most notably Yamaha and Honda, have taken advantage of the fact that the two-day test at Misano is private, and have debuted various new parts for both this year and next. With the pit lane closed to the media, the factories can work more freely.

The work going on means you can set little stock by the order on the timesheets. The two satellite Petronas Yamaha riders were fastest, but as they have mainly been working on race setup, this should hardly come as a surprise. Nor should the fact that Marc Márquez was third fastest, the Repsol Honda rider always fast under all conditions. But riders such as Alex Rins were not focused on a single fast lap, and so comparisons are difficult.

Yamaha had the most intriguing test program. Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales had a lot of parts to test. Both riders tried a second version of the 2020 engine they debuted at Brno, and though it was a slight improvement, much more was needed. "The step is not as big as we need, but in the right direction," was Rossi's verdict, while Viñales was a little more pessimistic, saying it was not the step they had been hoping for.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Do MotoGP riders get depressed?

Riders quitting, riders getting sacked, riders getting hurt; what really goes on in the mind of a MotoGP rider when all his dreams turn to dust?

Sometimes you go looking for an engineer in the paddock. At the end of a practice session you walk into the back of his team’s garage, hoping to find him there, so you can ask him a few questions.

“He’s in the back of the truck,” shouts one of the team’s mechanics. So you leave the garage, climb the steps at the back of the truck, knock on the door and quietly go inside. Unfortunately, the engineer isn’t there, but someone else is.

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Silverstone MotoGP Preview: A New Surface, And More Mindgames From Dovizioso on Marquez

This time last year, the entire paddock was stood in the rain, looking at the skies, and wondering how we were ever going to have a MotoGP race at Silverstone again. After a brief shower of torrential rain on Saturday put more water on the track than the new surface could drain away, making the track unrideable and creating conditions which saw a series of riders crash at the end of Hangar Straight, Tito Rabat coming off worst as Franco Morbidelli's wayward Honda smashed into his leg and destroyed his femur.

With the forecast for rain later on Sunday, the race was rescheduled for an early start, the lights due to go out at 11:30am local time. But the rain came earlier than forecast, and was heavier, and the track never dried out. There was standing water at several sections around the track. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. And we looked at one another and asked, have you heard anything? And every time we heard about a possible start time, or a time to evaluate track conditions, that was contradicted or retracted ten minutes later.

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Opinion: Doing The Right Thing - The Different Trajectories Of Johann Zarco And Jorge Lorenzo

What are you to do if you find yourself stuck on a bike you know you can't ride? On a bike which you are convinced is trying to hurt you, and which you keep falling of every time you try to push? The obvious answer is you try to leave as soon as possible. But that simple answer hides a host of factors which make leaving not as easy as it looks. The cases of Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco illustrate that very well.

First of all, why would a rider want to leave a factory ride? The pay is good, rarely less than seven figures. Riders have a chance to shape the bike and point development in a direction which suits them. They are treated, if not like royalty, then at least like nobility: transport is arranged and rearranged pretty much at their whim, picked up at their front doors before a race and deposited there again afterward. The pressure is high, but in a factory team, they do everything they can to take the strain and let their riders concentrate on riding.

That is little consolation when the going gets really tough. When you are struggling to get inside the top ten, despite giving your all to try to make the bike go faster. When you are crashing at twice, three times your normal rate. When factories are slow to bring updates to the bike. Or even worse, when they bring boxes and boxes of new parts, and none of those parts make much of a difference to your results.

Gravel rash on repeat

How tough can it get? In 2009, while Valentino Rossi was riding a Yamaha, he crashed 4 times during the season, the same number of times he had fallen the year before. In 2010, he crashed 5 times, though one of those crashes was enough to break his leg and take him out of competing for four races. In 2011, the year he switched to Ducati, he crashed 12 times. When you are not used to falling, that can put a real dent in your confidence. What's more, he scored just a single podium that year, compared to ten, including two wins, the year before.

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Austria MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 1: Lorenzo And Zarco Recapped, And The Marquez vs Dovizioso War

Sometimes events overshadow events. The MotoGP race at the Red Bull Ring turned into an instant classic, pretty much as the last three editions have done, with the race decided at the last corner, but despite the adrenaline-filled, heart-pumping, edge-of-the-seat final few laps, it is the drama which happened off track for which this race will be remembered. The insanity of a rider stepping away from a MotoGP contract with no guarantees of a ride for 2020, and the insanity of a rider flirting with another factory with a few to swapping teams and manufacturers in the middle of a contract rather took attention away what turned out to be a fantastic race.

So let's get the off-track stuff out of the way first. Though I have covered both the Jorge Lorenzo situation and the Johann Zarco situation in some detail elsewhere, here is a quick recap of where we stand.

Jorge Lorenzo first, as that situation is now resolved. Over the summer break, it appears that Lorenzo had been in touch with Ducati about a possible return to the Italian factory, after having severely hurt himself on the Repsol Honda, and found it a far more difficult beast to tame than he had expected. That all came to a head in Austria, as the seat Lorenzo and Ducati were discussing was currently held by Jack Miller at Pramac Ducati.

Not worth the paper they are written on?

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