With a disastrous switch to KTM continuing for Johann Zarco at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, where the former podium finisher finished in last place a huge 41 seconds from the leader and 11 seconds adrift of second-last, rumours have continued to spread about his future.
Perhaps the most interesting of those is one tying him to Honda’s new World Superbike project, with the Frenchman reportedly being eyed up to head a full-factory attack on the production bike series in 2020 – despite his two-year deal with the Austrian factory.
The mood within his KTM seems to be continuing to deteriorate, with reports of disagreements and arguments within the camp backed up by both on-screen shouting matches captured by TV cameras and harsh words from KTM boss Stefan Pierer, who last month hit out at the Frenchman’s performance to date.
“Johann's performance is simply unacceptable. He's having issues, but it's a psychological thing of his own. Recently he split with his life-long agent the man who placed him where he currently is, and the people surrounding him now are creating more complications than anything else. At this level of competition, the last step is always psychological.”
And while the rumours linking him to Honda’s World Superbike project remain simply rumours at this point, they came from multiple sources in the MotoGP paddock in Mugello. It coincides with reports that Honda will massively step up their campaign in the production bike championship for 2020, to tie in with a new superbike supposedly on the way to replace the Fireblade.
Backed up by much more significant Japanese support for Leon Camier and Ryuichi Kiyonari so far this year (and with the presence of respected development rider Kiyonari in the squad), a commitment from Honda reinforced by serious financial backing to poach a top rider could well mean that any offer put to a MotoGP rider could be significant.
And while Zarco is rumoured to be one name on their shopping list, Italian media have also reported that HRC is also interested in another big name – current championship leader Alvaro Bautista.
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