French rider Johann Zarco isn’t a rider who is known for frequently, or ever, losing control of his emotions. However, at the recent round at Jerez, Zarco did just that–throwing the KTM MotoGP bike under the bus by saying the bike either has crap handling or crap power or both while MotoGP’s video cameras were rolling.
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, who when KTM entered the MotoGP class, infamously said that they were coming for Honda’s ass, of course threw Zarco under the bus after hearing his comments saying Zarco wasn’t using the KTM to its fullest.
The unfortunate reality is that KTM is still trying to chop down large trees with a stone axe. WP suspension, a steel trellis frame and an engine that is on a razor edge between not competitive at all or briefly competitive is not even going to keep HRC awake at night in fear, in the least. KTM are lucky to have a proven, front-running rider like Zarco on their bike, so the response from KTM’s CEO is interesting to say the least.
These developments play out with a back beat of ‘why didn’t Zarco go to HRC if he had an opportunity to do so?’ . It’s widely believed that Zarco and his manager were in talks with HRC for him to join Marquez on the factory team in 2019. Instead, Zarco signed with KTM; Jorge Lorenzo signed with Honda.
Why would someone do that? The answer to that question is probably money.
Zarco had yet to make anything like a MotoGP rider salary while riding for Tech 3. A ride on the factory KTM team certainly pays very well. Could Zarco have made that kind of money on a Honda? One would think so, but the missive coming from Honda regarding their MotoGP effort in 2019 was “this needs to cost less”. Dani Pedrosa was very well paid by Honda and just about any replacement for Pedrosa was going to rightfully demand a decent compensation package.
Yet, Lorenzo was willing to sign with Honda for very minimal salary–he is said to be making just over $400,000 Euro a season now, after several $10 million Euro per season years at Ducati. For Honda, signing the vulnerable Lorenzo to a minimal salary deal probably saved them $10 million Euro or more in one fell swoop.