This just in from KTM:
Red Bull KTM will field current test rider Mika Kallio alongside Pol Espargaro for the remainder of the 2019 MotoGP campaign and starting from this weekend’s Gran Premio Michelin de Aragon and post-race test.
Kallio assumes Johann Zarco’s factory spot. Johann and KTM decided to mutually end their association at the end of 2019 but developments and on-going work mean that priorities have been realigned. The Frenchman will be exempt from his MotoGP duties but stays contracted to KTM until the end of the season.
KTM are in a crucial phase of the MotoGP project with an intense focus on the next generation of the RC16. Thanks to Kallio’s long-term testing role and experience the Finn will play a major part in gaining valuable data in racing conditions alongside Espargaro, who has posted seven top ten results in 2019 and qualified second on the grid at the last Grand Prix in San Marino.
Kallio – who rode the KTM on its debut in the MotoGP division in Valencia 2016 and has contributed strongly since the early testing phases of the RC16 – has already participated in seven wild card races from 2016 until 2018. With two top ten classifications on the MotoGP bikes and a career total of 16 GP victories and 49 podiums in the lower championship divisions, Kallio is eager to deliver new drive and momentum to KTM’s efforts in the premier class both for the rest of 2019 and with a view to the 2020 RC16.
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “We have to make decisions to ensure that we use our resources in the best possible way and we are currently in a positive direction with our MotoGP structure. We firmly believe that Mika can help us in this stage thanks to his knowledge and background. It is paramount that we verify our testing results in real race conditions to start our 2020 season in the best position. Mika has proved his ability on the RC16 and we are happy that he joins the line-up as a racer again. There is no doubt that we will focus on a new configuration with the #82 bike while fighting for points in the last races of the championship. At the same time we want to express gratitude to Johann for his effort since he joined our ambitious project in November last year. We now have to think of the future and are making this step accordingly. KTM will continue supporting him until the expiry of our contract at the end of the 2019 and we truly wish him all the best for his future.”