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Zarco to leave Pramac, confirms Honda MotoGP move with LCR for 2024

Johann Zarco will leave Ducati and Pramac Racing at the end of the 2023 season, paving the way to join LCR Honda next year to replace Yamaha-bound Alex Rins.

Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing

The Frenchman has been a Ducati rider since 2020, when the Italian marque signed him to a deal to join the Avintia satellite squad.

This came after Zarco elected to quit his KTM deal a year early during a difficult season on the RC16 following his switch from Tech3 Yamaha, before the Austrian marque parted ways with him with immediate effect after the San Marino GP.

Zarco was reticent to join Avintia as he deemed it “not a top team”, but managed a pole position and a podium in 2020 for the squad before being promoted to Pramac on full works-spec Ducati machinery.

Since then, he has scored 12 grand prix podiums with Pramac, the most recent coming prior to the summer break in Germany.

During the British GP weekend, following Rins’ announcement that he would be leaving LCR for Yamaha in 2024, Zarco emerged as the favourite to take his place.

This weekend in Austria, Zarco confirmed he had a deal on the table from Honda and from Ducati.

While it was reported that he had already signed with Honda on Saturday, Zarco said this was not the case but that he would make a final decision on Sunday.

Honda’s offer was for two years with an option for a third at LCR, while Ducati’s deal was for one year with a view to moving the Frenchman to its World Superbike project in 2025.

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda, Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda, Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Following Sunday’s Austrian GP, Pramac first confirmed that Zarco would be parting ways with the squad, with a Honda announcement expected any time from now.

Paolo Campinotti, Pramac team principal, said: “Over the course of three fantastic years alongside Johann, the team has taken a significant step forward, thanks in no small part to his immense talent.

“This progress has brought him to the position of being the current leader of the MotoGP championship.

“For this reason, I can only express my regret that he won't be part of our family in the upcoming season, but I wish him all the luck in the world for his future endeavours.

“Now, all that's left for me to do is enjoy working with him until the end of the championship, expecting great things from him once again.”

Zarco previously had links to Honda for 2019 before signing with KTM, and then contested the final three grands prix of that year with LCR as Takaaki Nakagami’s injury replacement.

While Honda is yet to confirm the move, Zarco did so on Canal+ on Sunday.

"I'm going to be part of the Honda clan for the next two years, with the LCR team," he said.

"We've known each other for three races [at the end of 2019], and now it's a pleasure to say that we'll meet again. It's still six months away, so we still have time to finish the season well with Pramac."

"But [it's] a decision that took some time to make, because leaving a bike that wins to enter a project to develop a bike that has won and is no longer winning is interesting.

"And given the stage I'm at in my career, I don't think it's too bad to say 'I've secured my place in MotoGP for the next two years'."

This is a major piece of the 2024 grid puzzle now in place, with the next big move set be Marco Bezzecchi’s decision on whether to stay with VR46 Ducati or move to Pramac to take Zarco’s place.

Ducati has made it clear that double grand prix winner Bezzecchi’s only chance of having a factory-spec bike in 2024 will be at Pramac, with VR46 set to remain with year-old machinery.

Valentino Rossi told Sky Italia this weekend that he has been “pushing” Bezzecchi to stay where he is as he feels VR46 can still offer him a competitive package despite not having full factory bikes.

Bezzecchi’s decision will have an impact on what happens with Franco Morbidelli, who will leave Yamaha at the end of the year.

Should Bezzecchi remain at VR46, which appears to be his preference, then Morbidelli could well end up with a plum factory ride at Pramac in 2024.

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