KTM announced on Monday morning that Zarco, who had initially penned a two-year deal with the Mattighofen-based squad, would leave at the end of the current season.

The move was agreed in an emotional meeting at the Red Bull Ring late on Saturday, according to Beirer, who described Zarco’s decision as “understandable” but also “super-sad”.

“It wasn’t exactly our own decision,” said Beirer on Red Bull-owned network Servus TV. “Johann came to me and Mike Leitner on Saturday evening, he wanted an appointment with us.

“We were a bit surprised, because the time was a bit unusual for a short briefing. And there he sat in front of us, really tense and with tears in his eyes, saying that at the moment he can’t handle it anymore and he wants to get out of the contract.

“There wasn’t much room to discuss anything. His decision was so firm and so clear and actually sad. For us the moment was actually super-sad, but it was also our wish to help him to get out of this situation and not to burden him even more.

“As a person and as a guy, how he sat there, it was really cruel to watch. On the other hand it is understandable from a sporting point of view. He sees himself with us in a valley where he can’t get out any more, and now he just wants to realign himself.”

Zarco wrote on his Instagram account that leaving KTM was a “hard decision” but that he wanted to be able to compete “with [a] smile, racing for podiums”.

Speaking to MotoJournal, he added: “I wanted to do it in the purest way: first, put an end to my KTM contract, then look for something else.

“My front row in Brno showed me that I still had the speed. I want to stay in MotoGP and I’m working on it. There should be some progress in Silverstone.”

KTM to take time on Zarco replacement

Beirer admitted the timing of Zarco’s pending departure was “extremely bad” because of the nature of MotoGP’s two-year contract cycles.

Jack Miller was briefly linked with a move to join Pol Espargaro at the works KTM team before Jorge Lorenzo decided against a mooted switch to Pramac Ducati, a move which would have left the Australian rider without a seat.

“The time to find a new rider here is not really the best,” Beirer said. “There is no big masterplan with new names either, but at least there is a new version.

“We decided to start the new application deadline today. It will last until November 19 in Valencia [the season finale], so we’re looking forward to top riders from all over the world to applying for the MotoGP ride.”

Test riders Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio, as well as Tech 3 rider Miguel Oliveira, are among the potential candidates to take Zarco’s ride already in the KTM stable.

Additional reporting by Juliane Ziegengeist

Johann Zarco, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Johann Zarco, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / LAT Images