The Tech3 team have exercised their option to keep Johann Zarco for the 2018 season. On Thursday, the two parties reached an agreement that will see the Frenchman stay with the team for a second year.
The agreement was anything but a surprise. Both Zarco and his teammate Jonas Folger are on "one plus one" contracts, a one-year contract with an option to extend it for a second year, but Tech3's general policy has always been to automatically extend the second year. For rookies such as Zarco and Folger, this allows them to focus on adapting to the new class, rather than having to worry about results, and push themselves into a mistake.
In the case of Johann Zarco, there was even less doubt that his contract would be extended. The Frenchman has been exceptional in the first four races of the season, mixing it with the podium regulars and far exceeding expectations. Signing the extension at Zarco's home Grand Prix was the ideal opportunity to maximize media exposure.
The contract extension is the best option for Zarco as well. With all of the current factory riders on two-year deals, there are no vacancies in factory teams. If Zarco continues to develop as he has so far this year, the Frenchman's name will be at the top of a lot of factory bosses' wish lists for 2019 onwards. The big question is whether Valentino Rossi retires at the end of 2018, making room in the factory Yamaha squad. But if Rossi continues, there will be plenty of other opportunities for Zarco.
With Zarco signed, attention in the Tech3 team switches to Jonas Folger. Zarco's exceptional performance has rather overshadowed the fact that Folger has been riding very well indeed, and is on course for a very strong first season. There seems little doubt that Folger will get his contract extended as well, and like Zarco, the most likely place for that to be announced is at his home Grand Prix, at the Sachsenring on 2nd July.
Below is the press release sent out by the Tech3 team announcing Zarco's contract extension.
HJC HELMETS GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE
21 MAY 2017
Zarco and Tech3 to continue successful partnership in 2018
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 team and Johann Zarco, the high-flying sensation, have reached an agreement that will see the double Moto2 World Champion remain with the French team for the 2018 season. The 26-year-old has undertaken a superb start to the current campaign, where he has highlighted his supreme talent by instantly adapting to the 1000cc Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike. His impressive performances have triggered the option of a second year with Tech3 and he will determinedly continue to fight for top tier finishes.
"I am very happy to know that I will continue my MotoGP experience with Monster Yamaha Tech3 in 2018. At the moment, I am enjoying an amazing debut in this category where I have learnt a huge amount, and the team have now given me the confidence for next year, which is just fantastic. I want to say thank you to my manager Laurent Fellon who has helped me at all times and also, thanks to the people who have assisted me since I started racing in the World Championship. We can see that Tech3 is a great team because when we push, it’s possible to get a strong result. I am very happy but this is only the beginning and I will keep learning and growing so that I can regularly fight for podiums, and then once I am at this level, I plan to continue in this way for as long as possible. In 2018, the rules won’t change and I will have an entire year of experience so this will certainly help me to get to the top."
"This news is incredibly good for me and the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 team but it is also positive for MotoGP racing worldwide and especially in France. We can announce that Johann Zarco has decided to remain with us for the 2018 season. Perhaps he could have waited a bit longer to make this decision, but he told me that he is happy and ready to commit himself to us. We are very proud to have that sort of confidence from Johann. He has already brought some amazing things to the team, such as huge excitement and joy, but he has also given us some pride back. I’m sure the best is yet to come, yet what he has done in the first four rounds is really impressive. I would like to thank Johann’s manager Laurent Fellon for his superb commitment and if Johann is performing in this way, it’s because Laurent took good care of him and helped him to grow into the rider that he is. We are more than happy to keep ZF with us, Z for Zarco and F for Fellon, and now we can fight in the remainder of the 2017 season with a high spirit. In addition, we can go out and try to find the partners who will be on our side in 2018. I would like to thank Johann and Laurent so let’s hope that this news will help him to be as strong as the whole crowd is expecting him to be for his home GP here in Le Mans."