Johann Zarco is close to finalising his move to LCR Honda for 2024 in a deal that is expected to be closed at the MotoGP Austrian Grand Prix.
Having felt a lack of factory support from Honda this season, Alex Rins announced a few weeks ago that he would be quitting his HRC deal with LCR a year early and join Yamaha for 2024.
Over the British Grand Prix weekend, Zarco emerged as favourite to replace the Spaniard, with the Frenchman having contested three rounds for LCR at the end of 2019 following his departure from KTM.
Zarco has been a Ducati rider since 2020, after senior management was able to convince him to sign a deal to race for Avintia – a move he was initially reticent to, branding the outfit as “not a top team” and claiming he would have rather returned to Moto2 – before being promoted to Pramac on works machinery for 2021.
Ducati’s sporting director Paolo Ciabatti acknowledged on Saturday from the Red Bull Ring that the intention of Zarco was to ink a two-year deal when the Italian marque only offered one.
“We communicated to Johann that Ducati was interested in him, for one year, to then take him to World SBK,” Ciabatti said.
“Then, in his desire to stay in MotoGP, he received a two-year offer from LCR. If you want to stay in MotoGP at all costs because you are 33 years old, and Ducati can only offer you one year, I think it’s normal to go the other way.”
Lucio Cecchinello, LCR team owner, confirmed the intention to sit down with the Zarco on Saturday to resolve the matter and sign the Frenchman.
Zarco’s signing to LCR will leave a vacant factory-spec Ducati at Pramac alongside Jorge Martin, who had been linked to Yamaha for 2024 prior to Rins’ signing.
At present, a move to Pramac will be Marco Bezzecchi’s only option to race a factory-spec Ducati in 2024 as VR46 will continue to run year-old machinery next season.
However, Bezzecchi’s first option is to remain with Valentino Rossi’s outfit, with whom he has won two grands prix and made his MotoGP debut with in 2022.
Ducati’s strategy is to offer Bezzecchi a two-year deal from 2024, which would indirectly block any move to Yamaha should VR46 elect to link up with the Japanese manufacturer in 2025, as has been rumoured for some time.
If Bezzecchi decides to stay with VR46, the advertising commitments of Paolo Campinoti’s structure suggest that at least one of the two riders should be Italian.
That considerably reduces the list of names, and leaves the suitable candidates to outgoing Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli – who has also been linked to Bezzecchi’s VR46 seat should he move to Pramac – and Moto2 frontrunner Tony Arbolino, who also has Gresini links for next year.