Johann Zarco is set to join the KTM MotoGP team from the 2019 season, Motorsport.com has learned.
The Frenchman has been linked to a KTM move since last year, although Honda and Suzuki are both known to have also been interested in securing Zarco's services for next season.
It's understood the Tech 3 Yamaha rider reached a verbal agreement during last weekend's Austin round with KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer and Thomas Uberall, who acts as Motorsports Manager for the Austrian marque's title sponsor Red Bull.
The deal, when formalised, will commit Zarco to the KTM works team until the end of the 2020 season. Pol Espargaro is expected to be retained, with Bradley Smith losing his seat.
Zarco had been the centre of speculation during the season opener in Qatar, where he expressed interest in joining a Honda "dream team" with reigning world champion Marc Marquez, who recently concluded a new contract with the Repsol-backed outfit.
However, the prospect of sharing a garage with Marquez is believed to have put Zarco off such a move, with one well-placed source telling Motorsport.com: "Being Marc's teammate is not easy to accept."
Pedrosa's Honda hopes boosted
Zarco's decision to join KTM comes as a major boost to Dani Pedrosa's hopes of staying on at Honda.
The Spaniard's run to seventh place 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.
However, Honda is still keen for Pedrosa to prove himself worthy of keeping his place as Marquez's teammate in the upcoming races, and continues to evaluate possible alternatives.
Moto3 champion Joan Mir remains on Honda's radar, and is also a contender to replace Andrea Iannone at Suzuki should its bid to lure Jorge Lorenzo away from Ducati fail.
Zarco is said to have shown no interest in a Suzuki move, following the Hamamatsu marque's decision to cancel a pre-agreement it had with the then-Moto2 champion in 2016 and sign Alex Rins instead.
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|Teams||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing|
|Article type||Breaking news|