Guenther Wiesinger / Manuel Pecino – Photos by 2Snap
When Stefan Pierer arrived at the Red Bull Ring last Friday to attend ‘his’ GP, he was informed that the 12,000 spectator KTM grandstand had sold out. An accomplishment that clearly satisfied the KTM owner.
There was, however, something that bothered Pierer: the situation with Johann Zarco. The French rider, hired for two seasons at a rate of 1.5 million euros per year, continued to perform far below expectations. The rider was hired to spearhead Pierer’s ambitious MotoGP project turned up in Austria with just 18 points in the provisional championship; his teammate, Pol Espargaró, did so with 61. Even the rookie Oliveira had finished the last race ahead of Zarco.
The team working with him at the races began to lose confidence in their rider after witnessing him lose his nerve many times and openly criticize the bike
Pierer and other heads at the brand wondered how long the deal with the French rider would last. The team working with him at the races began to lose confidence in their rider after witnessing him lose his nerve many times and openly criticize the bike. “In the 8 months he has been with us, he has not said one positive word about KTM or his team,” declared a garage technician. In Germany, for example, Zarco said that since November he had tried 1,000 different things and that none had worked. Pedrosa’s ‘useless’ collaboration was also the target of his increasingly bitter criticism.
Those who have worked with him in recent months say that Johann is physically completely exhausted, but even more so mentally.
Earlier in Jerez, Stefan Pierer warned that if results did not improve, they would sit down with Zarco at the end of the season. And knowing how the Austrian executive employs warnings, this sounded like a serious one. But there was no need to wait until season’s end because Zarco himself made a move before Pierer could take any initiative and asked him in Austria for a contract termination at the end of the season. Thus, it remains to be seen if the French rider will run the remaining 8 races with KTM in 2019.
For KTM, Zarco’s decision to quit is probably the only choice that makes sense. Those who have worked with him in recent months say that Johann is physically completely exhausted, but even more so mentally. In fact, at some point during the season they considered giving him a break to recover emotional stability. Especially after the Dutch GP, where during the race he entered the pits after 10 laps saying that the bike was uncontrollable.
Zarco’s situation: A state that specialists explain is caused by depression and anxiety typical of Burnout syndrome
After that incident, he was sent for a series of tests at the Red Bull Training Center in Thalgau, where it was determined he suffered from acidosis. A state that specialists explain is caused by depression and anxiety typical of Burnout syndrome, typically due to continuous subjection to high levels of stress, excessive workload, little autonomy, poor relationships at work and absence of support in the work environment, lack of training to perform the tasks…It sounds precisely like the situation he has been in since joining KTM.
“What we need to focus on now is getting the best out of the situation we are in,” explains Pierer. “It is about helping Zarco. He asked me to terminate the contract and I said no problem. How much more he will race with us this season is something he must decide. He met with us to tell us. I must say that after our meeting he was immediately more relaxed. I’m curious if this will have consequences on the track and what results he will Have at the next GP. Obviously, we will not enter into any legal dispute with him, so he can concentrate on racing.”