Bengaluru, April 24: Promising MotoGP rider Johann Zarco has reportedly signed a two-year deal with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing that will keep him at the Austrian outfit till 2020.
Bradley Smith is the rider, who is likely to lose his KTM seat to make way for Zarco, while Pol Espargaro will stay on.
Zarco, who broke the lap record en route to clinching the pole position in the FIM MotoGP World Championship season opener in Qatar was on the radar of Repsol Honda as a potential replacement to the struggling Dani Pedrosa.
According to a report in autosport.com, Zarco had been the centre of speculation during the season opener at the Losail circuit in Qatar, where he expressed interest in joining a Honda "dream team" with reigning world champion Marc Marquez - who recently concluded a new contract to stay with the firm.
But the prospect of sharing a garage with Marquez is believed to have put Zarco off such a move, with sources saying: "Being Marc's team-mate is not easy to accept."
Suzuki, who have lost patience with Andrea Iannone, was also interested in signing the talented 27-year-old.
But paddock rumours say Zarco showed no interest at all in the Suzuki move, following its decision to cancel a pre-agreement it had with the then-Moto2 champion in 2016 when it dumped him in the eleventh hour and signed Alex Rins instead.
All these factors forced the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider to opt for Red Bull. His current team have signed a contract to run spec KTM machinery from next season - ending a 20-year relationship with Yamaha and that seems to have been the deciding factor in the Frenchman's move to KTM.
It is reliably learnt that the two-time Moto2 champion, who is just into his second season in the premier class of Grand Prix racing, reached a verbal agreement during last weekend's Austin round, which was won by world champion Marquez, with KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer and Thomas Uberall, who acts as motorsports manager for the team's title sponsor Red Bull.
Zarco's decision to join KTM comes as huge relief to Pedrosa's hopes of staying on at Honda.
Pedrosa's run to seventh place at Austin just 12 days after undergoing surgery on a fractured wrist will have done no harm to his prospects of securing a fresh deal with the team where he has spent his entire premier class career.