Beleaguered new KTM rider Johann Zarco has turned to former French racing legend Jean-Michel Bayle, to try to get his results back on course, after a difficult start to his first season on the Red Bull factory bike.
After four poles and six podiums in two years on a satellite Yamaha, the former double Moto2 champion has been far outranked by KTM team-mate Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard has amassed 21 points including two top tens and a second-row start this season; while Zarco has struggled just to get into the points. with seven so far, and has equalled the top score with an uncharacteristic four crashes.
After the last round at Jerez, Zarco has joined forces with Bayle, multiple motocross and Supercross World and AMA champion between 1988 and 1991, before a brief career in GPs.
The goal was mental, he said. “I want to have a free mind, to bring some freedom to the track, to get a pure performance from me. It is important to keep the mission in your mind.”
In the last fortnight he’d felt positive about the new association with some encouraging results. “Now we are going to see how we work together this weekend,” he said.
Zarco’s new association with KTM has been troubled from the start, the smooth-as-silk style that served so well on the Yamaha not suiting a bike that responds better to Espargaro’s forceful riding. After crashing twice on Friday at Jerez, Zarco was observed issuing a foul-mouthed tirade in his pit, criticising the bike.
This prompted censure from KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, who said that Zarco should learn to adapt to the more aggressive character of the V4 engine. While the in-line fours like Yamaha and Suzuki favoured rookie riders, he said, “most of the race wins have been by V4s.”
KTM competitions manager Pit Beirer was more understanding, in an interview with Crash.net. While agreeing that Zarco’s prospects were bleak “if he continues to ride the bike like he rode his previous bike,” but adding: “We must both do a step now. He must use the advantage of the bike, because it does have some advantages, and we must improve its weaknesses.
“We will prove we took the right rider, and I will prove to him that he chose the right company.
KTM Moto2 Problems
While the MotoGP project, now in its third year, continues to show steady progress, KTM is facing its own problems in Moto2, with the steel-tube chassis having adapted less successfully to the new Triumph power than rivals.
Not only Kalex but also Speed Up and to an extent NTS have shown prowess, while official KTM Red Bull rider Brad Binder’s sometimes superhuman efforts have left him trailing in tenth overall.
An all-new chassis arrived at Le Mans, with immediate benefits.
“The previous chassis had problems at the front and the back. This is completely new, and the front is really good … I think it’s the first time I’ve ridden a KTM without any chatter,” he said.
“But as soon as the tyre goes down a bit the back is really bad. It’s hard to get out of the corners. It’s a good direction, but not the answer.”
Binder was penalised in Argentina for uncharacteristically rough riding – but had an explanation. “The way I had to ride that bike was different: braking really hard then make a V of the corner.” It meant he was unavoidably rubbing up against other fast riders with higher corner speed. “I’ll have to be careful or I’ll get into trouble soon,” he said.
by Michael Scott
By Michael Scott