Johann Zarco has no more time to waste. Also the French pilot rushes at full speed on his Ducati, until breaking records. At 30, the one who says he is aiming for the world title will start the third race of the season, Sunday April 18 in Portimao (Portugal), at the head of the general classification of MotoGP – the premier category of motorcycle races. He will start from the front row, behind his compatriot Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and the Spaniard Alex Rins (Suzuki). A rebirth for a pilot ejected from his team less than two years ago.
However, the Cannes driver was not the most anticipated driver of the start of the season. If he rides a Ducati, he does not benefit from the support of the official team of the Italian brand, but evolves within a “satellite team”, Pramac. Its displacement is similar to those of the Italian Francesco Bagnaia or the Australian Jack Miller (Ducati, therefore), but his team has less financial and human resources.
But veteran Johann Zarco was able to make the most of this fiery motorcycle, unmatched in a straight line. He finished in second place in the first two Grands Prix – in Qatar – after races in which he demonstrated his cool. Sunday April 4, during the second race of the season, he passed his teammate Jorge Martin in the last corners to complete the first French double in the history of the premier motorcycle category, behind Fabio Quartararo.
First driver to exceed 360 km / h
Not content with being first in the general classification, Johann Zarco also left a mark in the record books during his time in the Middle East: during testing, he became the first driver to exceed 360 km / h, being flashed at 362.4 km / h. And given the power under the handlebars of the red mark, the Frenchman could further improve this record on the long straight line of the Mugelo circuit (Italy) at the end of May. Enough to direct all eyes to him for the Portuguese Grand Prix.
” Arriving as a leader is good, it’s a good feeling and the best position to start the European season, he estimated when he arrived in Portimao. I hope this position will give me a little more energy to push for a podium or, if all goes well, why not one more step towards victory. (…) In any case, it is not a source of pressure. “
Sunday at 2 p.m., he will start from third position thanks to his time in qualifying, despite a fall in one of his laps. Zarco could well take the lead from the first corner thanks to the power advantage of his machine over the rest of the grid, before, perhaps, a new duel at the top between the two tricolors.
🏁 @ FabioQ20 grabs Portimao pole ahead of @ Rins42 and @ JohannZarco1! @ marcmarquez93 will make his racing return fro… https://t.co/VBkP4uTmQx
On the handlebars of his Ducati, Johann Zarco is leading his second life in MotoGP. The first ended in the back of the grid in the middle of a season: on September 17, 2019, his KTM team, where he was doing his first year of contract, announced his replacement for the last races. During his time in the Austrian team, he also fell out with the former driver Laurent Fellon, his manager since childhood and his first experiences in Italy.
A stop for Zarco, who until then embodied the best chances of victories and titles for France. Sacred world champion in 2015 and then 2016 in Moto 2, the category below MotoGP, he remains the only Frenchman to have won two world crowns – to date, no tricolor has yet managed to win the premier category.
Performances that allowed him to land the following year in MotoGP, at Tech 3, a French team close to Yamaha, where the Italian Valentino Rossi figures in particular. From his first race, in Qatar, Zarco spends several laps at the top of the Grand Prix, before crashing. The podiums were quick to arrive: he counted six in two years, the first for a Frenchman in the XXIe century.
The hope of securing a first victory
Enough to make him take the step towards a “top team”, and Zarco’s choice fell on KTM, which made its return to the premier class in 2019. He openly aimed for the world title, but derailed: dissatisfied with his bike, he made it known publicly, until the break with his team. At mid-season, he was evolving very far from the first places where another Frenchman now occupied the light: Fabio Quartararo.
Ejected from KTM, Johann Zarco had not yet completed his 2019 season. Due to the injury of a driver, he has competed in the last three races with the LCR team, has proven himself again and stitched up part of his reputation in tatters. In 2020, he joined the small private team Avintia, in the Ducati galaxy, won a podium and the 10e place in the world championship. This convinced the Italians to promote it at Pramac.
Current leader of the world championship, Johann Zarco is still missing a victory to make his mark in the premier class, and sing the Marseillaise at the top of the podium. Hoping to stay at the top of the table in a discipline where the gaps between motorcycles and riders are tiny. Only six-time world champion Marc Marquez can claim to be above the peloton, but the Spaniard is barely returning to the Portuguese circuit after a nine-month injury. He will start at the 6e place Sunday.
The Portuguese circuit seems to correspond a little less to the characteristics of Johann Zarco’s bike, but the Cannois is not worried. ” Even when it’s more difficult, there is always a guy on a Ducati who stands out. It helps in the head “, He assured. Until then, in Portugal, this ” guys », It’s him again.