On the racetrack, 2019 has already begun for KTM but the real baptism came today with the presentation of all the teams that the Austrian manufacturer will field this season. Starting with the MotoGP team of course, rider Johann Zarco heading up the squad's campaign. The Frenchman has taken an important step, leaving Yamaha, the manufacturer that brought him to MotoGP, and taking up the KTM cause. The Austrian outfit has welcomed him like a king but is (so far) struggling to lead him into the top half of the standings. This is water under the bridge for now though, because today is a reason for celebration, with no place for negative thoughts.
“Attending he presentation makes me realise how close we are to getting started – starts the Frenchman – and it's great. I don't feel any pressure: we had a good test at Sepang and though there's work to do, I've taken steps forward and this makes me happy, I hope to continue along this path”.
Johann is aware of both KTM's desire to stand out and the work that lies ahead, but he's not put off.
“I will try to be myself. On a factory team, there are many things to test but at a certain point, you need clear ideas in order to be fast and give indications. KTM has great potential but we can't go back in time so we need to be patient. We also have Pedrosa in our corner and it's only a pity that his collarbone injury prevented him from riding during the tests”.
The next stop is Qatar, for the final tests, which are followed immediately by the first real dance of the season
“I'll be happy if I'm fighting in the top ten– confesses #5 – and I think that's a plausible goal. It's difficult to say what we will work on in Qatar. I'm pleased to have a three-day test before the race, though the following races will be very different as we should be starting from a good base with everything more or less in place. Starting Friday on the right foot could be our weak point this season, considering our lack of references”.
There is a lot to be done then, but there are also reasons to smile.
“I'm more relaxed than I was regarding the braking phase, and stopping the bike, something I was struggling with in November. The engine has the right drive on corner exit, but between entry and exit there's the corner (he laughs) and it's there I need to improve”.
The first to help Johann with development will be his team-mate Pol Espargarò, with whom he already appears to have a good relationship.
“Pol is a good guy who's done a great job over the last two years. Seeing the work I've been doing in these months, I can't imagine his workload over the two years. He was pleased after the test as he ducked under two minutes, which is important even though some managed to duck under 1’59. We don't share a lot technically-speaking, we have two different styles and each of us gets on with our own work, but he's a nice guy to spend time around”.