MotoGP »

Moto2 Q&A - Johann Zarco

An exclusive interview with AirAsia Caterham rider Johann Zarco, currently tenth in the Moto2 World Championship with one podium as the season restarts at Indianapolis this weekend...
Crash.net:
How were your holidays Johann?

Johann Zarco:
Finally I didn't really take a holiday. I wasn't feeling good at home because I was disappointed with this first part of the season. Also the last grand prix I crash and the bike caught fire so it was not a very nice weekend in Germany. With my coach and manager Laurent [Fellon] we said that we need to do a ´reset´ to find again the feeling to be a fast rider. For the break I was training. Also I work on the bike to be a better rider and to not think too much technical[ly].That was my problem in the last races.

Crash.net:
Are you the kind of rider who likes to take time away from the bike during the mid-season break or are you always training with dirtbikes?

Johann Zarco:
I went once with motocross. Then we went to Spain for four days. I was on the go-kart track and I also helped some children. When I help them I ride on a 125 and it´s really good for the feeling. This was during the day at Motorland in Aragon and at the end I was going on the dirt track. It was more [about] training with this bike, trying to learn many things. The next race with this bike will be with Marquez in December.

Crash.net:
Will that be the Superprestigio in Barcelona?

Johann Zarco:
Yes, that´s it. I went in January and it was my first experience. Now it´s becoming so famous as Marquez is training in it. To move on the bike is good.

Crash.net:
You just mentioned changing your mindset for the second half of 2014. Did you find you were overcomplicating your riding in the first part of the year?

Johann Zarco:
After Qatar I had two pretty good grand prix in Austin and Argentina – not for the result on Sunday but because I was fighting for the pole position. That means I was going well. But with some bad luck, maybe I have some doubts and less confidence, I try to think too much about the bike during some GPs, for example in Le Mans and Mugello. I was so happy to get the podium in Barcelona. Assen was a race that I could have won but finally I didn´t do [it] because I have so many almost crashes. To finish fourth was a good result. Then again at the Sachsenring I was not so far from the podium but in the race I couldn't fight, was on the limit and then crashed. It looks this year like we can fight for the podium and we would like to fight for the podium every race. I only did it twice which is not enough. I'm disappointed and we are not where we would like to be.

Crash.net:
Looking at the world championship Dominique Aegerter in the only Suter rider in the championship fight. Do you find the Suter to be an inconsistent chassis?

Johann Zarco:
We could think like this but we don't have to because the Suter bike was really good in 2012 with Marquez. This is the target: to be as good as Marquez, to improve this bike and to ride it as well as possible. Now we did a step with the chassis at the Sachsenring. I get a thought that it´s possible to win with it. We will see now at Indianapolis and the rest of the season. I think now we don´t have weak points. For the rider if he starts to think like this he has too many questions in the mind [which] I don't want to do in the next part of the season. The bike is competitive and if Marquez was able to do it then it is not a problem [and] we need to get our target.

Crash.net:
Earlier this year in Texas it looked like you had the speed to win. Do you feel your first win in the class is getting closer?

Johann Zarco:
For the next part of the season with Laurent we want to win a race. I don't know if it can be at Indianapolis, we trust more another track, because Silverstone and Aragon can be really nice tracks for us. So first consistency, the podium and then we catch this victory. This is the way to think from now.

Crash.net:
One of the notable things about Moto2 in 2014 has been the speed of the class rookies. What do you put that down to?

Johann Zarco:
I don't know. The first year of Moto3 when Sandro Cortese won the world championship he made the step to Moto2. [In 2012] They were not going as fast as 2013 in Moto3 when Viñales, Rins and Salom fought for the title. That´s why when they did the step [up] they did it together with the same team [Pons Kalex]. It´s a very good team too with a lot of experience. I was waiting more for Viñales than Salom and for sure at the moment Viñales is stronger. But this is not a surprise. I had the same experience in 2011 with Viñales when he came from the Spanish championship and won a race before me. I said it was going to be the same in Moto2 in 2014 and he did it. Now he is a guy that I am looking at and trying to learn from. He has very nice qualities as a rider. He controls the weekend very well, he smiles, he doesn't get stressed as I did in the past.

Crash.net:
Have you had the opportunity to visit the Caterham factory?

Johann Zarco:
Yes, at the beginning of the year. It was very nice. I know they change place because Formula 1 and motorbike [racing] are not really the same. To see how the Formula 1 was going was impressive but I prefer sometimes if we are smaller and we can win races. So I trust that we can do it. I´m really happy with the team. Also my coach says that I can speak a lot with the chief mechanic and he told me, “The Zarco fighter has to come back!”

Crash.net:
We are looking forward to seeing the “Zarco fighter” in America! You were born in Cannes in the south of France. Is motorsport popular in the area?

Johann Zarco:
It´s better to say I´m from Avignon. I was born in Cannes but where we can improve with motorbikes with more passion is in Avignon. It´s not on the beach and there, there is a lot of passion for mechanical sports. I had to move there to be more with the motorbike. The first target was to be in the world championship and being in Avignon, living with my coach I could do it. Then we tried to win our first title and we almost did it in 2011. We made the step to Moto2. For sure you need to have the motorbike in your blood and that´s why I say I´m from Avignon. All the sponsors are from there since the beginning of the world championship.

Crash.net:
You rode with a special Christian Sarron inspired livery at Le Mans. Was he a hero of yours growing up?

Johann Zarco:
I can't say because I really watched the TV when I was around ten years old. My hero is really Valentino Rossi but then before I was born it was very interesting to see the riders and what they did. I was not a fan of Sarron, it was more for the 30 years since his world championship victory [the 250 class in 1984]. Also because my motorbike school with Lauren we work with Yamaha and we wanted to do something special for his victory 30 years ago. It didn´t bring me luck but it was more for Yamaha than Christian.

Crash.net:
You made your name by winning the Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2007 but you didn't race the following year, instead training at the Red Bull Academy. Can you tell us a little more about that season?

Johann Zarco:
When we won the Red Bull Rookies Cup the way was to go into the academy and the Spanish championship with KTM. Before KTM they were using Honda. But in 2008 when they made the step with KTM it wasn't a very good bike. It wasn't able to fight against the Aprilia. [Stefan] Bradl was using a very good Aprilia at this time so I saw that it was too difficult and with my coach we said, “Ok, we don't do the Spanish championship.” We leave this academy and tried to do our way. If I didn't win the Spanish championship then my career was completely finished. That´s why I didn't do it.
Finally I won the Red Bull Rookies Cup but I didn't win anything. I was with nothing at the end. Now it´s pretty good – if you win you go suddenly into the Ajo Motorsport team. But in 2007 it wasn't like this. This is life and I have no regrets because we took the right decision.

Crash.net:
Did you receive any training or mentorship from Alberto Puig?

Johann Zarco:
The name was Alberto Puig but he was never there. The two other guys were controlling the academy because Puig was with Pedrosa. I could train with them sometimes, in Barcelona. It was from January to March, 2008. We had one week there per month. We also had training with the Supermoto but when I tested the KTM I saw that it wasn't going to be a good bike for the Spanish championship and I took the decision. I could meet Folger and also in this time Danny Kent – he was so young. Also there was an American rider, it was important to have an American, it was Cameron Beaubier [current AMA Superbike contender]. When I start the world championship in 2009 he start also as an official KTM rider without winning the Spanish championship. The way was ready for him, they planned to keep the American one, not the French one but they could not put the French one away! It was a strange situation. The best way was to leave them and to do our way.

Crash.net:
Results wise 2011 was your strongest year when you finished runner-up to Nico Terol in the 125 class. Is it true that you had to pay for your ride that year?

Johann Zarco:
Yes, it´s from the beginning of Moto2 that I can get a salary. In 125 it was necessary to pay the team to race because you had to show what you could do. It was the time of the crisis so in 2009 we paid, 2010 we paid but a little less as we continued with the same Italian team [WTR San Marino]. Then to go to Ajo Motorsport [in 2011], it was a stronger team so it was necessary to invest much more money. Finally I had a good fight with Nico and this showed to the people that Zarco is now able to ride, he can do the step in Moto2 and he doesn't need to pay any more. But you need to stay in this high level. If not you lose your place because it´s so difficult to go up, just as quickly you can go down. You have to be careful and keep going!

Crash.net:
It still must have been strange though, fighting for a world title while paying for your seat...

Johann Zarco:
It´s often like this in the little category. Now maybe not so much because a lot of people are following the Spanish riders from the beginning, since they were young. By the time they arrive in Moto3 they already have a salary. Our way was different. I was fighting for my coach because he put his family in danger when he said, 'OK, we need to invest.' He did it for me so I said, 'Maybe if I can win races things will change.' We got more money, it was the target. But now it´s necessary to continue. I'm not fighting for them, I'm fighting for me in Moto2 to find a way to get victories without this pressure. I couldn't work with this pressure before but now it´s another way. We are in a good situation and try to continue but for sure 2011 was like a bet. We won this bet but we can't give up because we are not in a situation to rest and wait. We need to fight again. Maybe if I was world champion it would change, you would see if you wanted to continue or not.

Crash.net:
We have to ask you about the incident at Misano that year. What happened exactly?

Johann Zarco
It started in Barcelona when I really won the race but they [race direction] said, “No, you pushed Nico [Terol]” and gave me a 20 second penalty. This started to get me angry! Then there was another victory in Sachsenring against Faubel, Terol´s team-mate in the Aspar team. Finally we had the exact same race time, a photo finish, they decide to take the fastest lap time and Faubel was faster. I didn't win the race. All these kind of events, even when I was pushing someone or touching someone, they were coming in the box and saying, “Be careful, if not you will get a penalty!” That´s why when I was leading in Misano in the last metres Nico had a very good bike. He overtook me again so quickly and I really lost my head and tried to stop him with my arm. This was my mistake. I don't know if I was unlucky or not but I didn't have the world title in this year. But it was motivation as I think that if I was world champion maybe I would have given up. I didn't and now I try to do it in Moto2 now. I try to think like this so I don't think they cheat with me [laughs]!

Crash.net:
Along with you, Loris Baz in World Superbikes and Fabio Quartararo in the Spanish CEV are young and have the required talent. Can you see yourself competing with them in MotoGP one day?

Johann Zarco:
Why not? It would be nice. Quartararo is going to be in the world championship very soon. If he keeps his free mind I think he will be fast in Moto3 but he is quite tall so I hope this won't be a problem on the bike. He will want to go to Moto2 and if he does he needs to fight for the Moto3 title. He at the moment is the best one. Loris Baz, the way he does it in World Superbikes is good. He is maybe on paper to go to MotoGP quite soon. We will see.

Thinking about myself, I don't know these riders well so it´s important for me to have French riders in the championship. I trust more in my school with Laurent. The name is ZF Grand Prix - that means Zarco and Fellon. We try to do what the Spanish are doing in Spain but in France. The federation is not doing it and we have to show them the way. We are not making money, we are spending money to show there is a way to follow. I can say ten riders are learning every Wednesday with me on track. I have three riders that are pretty good who can go up and continue. So if we have 40 riders you have to think twelve will be really good.

But we don't have this in France. The federation isn´t doing good work. They try to make money before the children and they don't have the passion. We are doing it with passion and the next French rider in the world championship will come like this. We need to wait as it´s a project for the future. In eight years we can have three or four French riders in the world championship like Quartararo is doing. You´re question about MotoGP is interesting but first we need to have four riders, competitive, in Moto3 and then we can think about MotoGP. Now, only one category is not enough.

Crash.net:
How old are the riders?

Johann Zarco:
Between seven and twelve.

Crash.net:
Are the kids specifically from the south of France?

Johann Zarco:
At the moment the south as we can only use the Wednesday when I go back from the GP. We organise races with people from the south but we want to do more - that all the part of fans will follow to have riders and a good school. This is [in the south] but by 2015 we will go up [to the north] because we need to keep the people following “ZF”.

Crash.net:
When the Caterham Moto2 was launched team boss Johan Stigefelt said he believes the team can compete in MotoGP in two-three years. Have there been talks about this?

Johann Zarco:
Yeah, we heard this. But first we need to win in Moto2 - this is the first target. Then for sure if Air Asia saw that we were able to win in Moto2 they will help to move up to the next category. If I don't win then they will not push so the first target is to be on the podium, get victories. We will see. Anyway everything is good, more good is coming so we need to catch this 'good' [feeling].

Crash.net:
Your crash helmet is one of the coolest in the whole paddock. Where did its inspiration come from?

Johann Zarco:
So the main part is the rising sun. Laurent, my coach, was a mechanic in 1991 in the world championship. He explained to me how these Japanese guys had just arrived from Japan and they were really racers. Suddenly it was Ueda, Sakata, Wakai. I really liked these stories he told me so that´s why we use the rising sun. Then we put many flags on the helmet because you asked before if I was into racing before I rode motorbikes. Well, yes, I am very interested in the story of motorbike [history] and it was to represent many riders and to show respect to them. They were world champions, had many nice races. It was to help with the memory of many of these riders.

Crash.net:
You spoke of changing your mindset for the second half of the season. Have you received any upgrades from Suter?

Johann Zarco:
The biggest change was the chassis in the Sachsenring. Maybe now we will have some steps with the swingarm but at the moment the bike is able to win. We will see but I let the team chief decide with the technical crew and like this I don't think about the technical, I'm only riding.

Crash.net:
You have never finished on the podium at this track. Is that the aim for this weekend?

Johann Zarco:
Yes, this is. I've never been on the podium here, even in my good year in 2011 because I've never been very good on this track. It is sliding a lot, tyres drop down also and I was always not relaxed enough to catch the podium. I hoped this summer I could welcome it, to stay relaxed when it's sliding and we will see if it works well this weekend or not.

Crash.net:
Well we wish you well for the rest of 2014 Johann. Thanks for your time.

Johann Zarco:
You're welcome and I'm happy because we didn't say bad things for Heather! [Maclennan - Caterham's Communications Coordinator, also present in the interview].


Tagged as: moto2 , Caterham , Zarco

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Zarco almost crashing, Moto2 race Italian MotoGP 2014
Suzuki GSX-RR
Suzuki GSX-RR
Suzuki GSX-RR
Suzuki GSX-RR
Suzuki GSX-RR
Suzuki GSX-RR
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Aleix Espargaro, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Lorenzo, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Lorenzo, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Lorenzo, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Aleix Espargaro, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014
Crutchlow, Aragon MotoGP race 2014

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2014 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.