Karel Abraham is to cease racing in the MotoGP class for the foreseeable future. The 29-year-old told a meeting with fans on Saturday night that he would not be returning to the Avintia team for 2020, and that it is likely he will end his active racing career altogether.
Abraham made his decision after being told not to come to Jerez for the two-day MotoGP test due to start on Monday. The email had come as a hard blow, Abraham told the fans, as he had a contract to continue racing with the Reale Avintia team for 2020. But on Friday night, he had received an email terminating the contract, though Abraham disagreed with the reasons given.
The way in which the contract was ended made the Czech rider not want to have anything more to do with the team, he told the fans present at the event. Something like this should be dealt with before leaving for the flyaways, or at least in a face-to-face meeting, Abraham said.
Abraham accused the Avintia team of financial problems, claiming that a number of mechanics did not travel to the Malaysian round of the championship in Sepang. Abraham accused Avintia of not having paid some mechanics. In turn, Abraham stands accused of not having fulfilled his contract with Avintia by paying the agreed sponsorship amount.
Abraham's departure opens the way for Johann Zarco to take the seat there. The Frenchman had originally turned the team down, saying they were 'not a top team'. "I want a good team and a good bike, and for me Avintia is not a top team, so if I have to lose more myself in that place, I will move to Moto2," Zarco had said on Saturday at Valencia.
But after the weekend, Zarco was spotted holding meetings with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, where he is believed to have been offered assurances about the level of support at the team. Zarco also has the backing of French GP promoter Claude Michy, who has persuaded Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to back the team.
However, top French journalist Thomas Baujard spoke by phone to Johann Zarco about a move to Avintia during the test at Valencia, and at that point, Zarco was still to be convinced. At the moment, the seat left vacant by Alex Marquez in the Marc VDS Moto2 team was still available, but talks between the team and Zarco have been difficult.
As of Saturday night, there is still no sign of Zarco having made a decision about taking the ride on a Ducati with the Reale Avintia team. With that seat now empty, it would be logical for Zarco to fill the seat and try to win a much better ride in 2021. But the Zarco saga is so long and complex that logic has long since been abandoned. We await official confirmation of the next move.
Even if Zarco does take the Avintia seat, he is unlikely to ride at Jerez. The Frenchman is still recovering from the ankle injury picked up in his crash during the race at Valencia, and is far from being fully fit to ride. There will also have to be some papering over the cracks left by the Frenchman's comments about the team.