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MotoGP Interview - Johann Zarco Interview: EXCLUSIVE

“I am impressed because it looks like [Rossi and Viñales are like] a computer. They anticipate all the movements on the bike, they manage it automatically” - Johann Zarco
After his electric start to his debut MotoGP championship, double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco spoke to on the eve of the Grand Prix of Argentina, and touched on that Qatar performance, facing up to the pressure during his Moto2 title defence, and learning from Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales' data.
I think you surprised a lot of people with your sensational start in Qatar. You've had over a week to analyse it. What are your thoughts when looking back on that performance?

Johann Zarco:
I could analyse it. I surprised a lot of people but I surprised also myself! Even after analysing it, the situation is very positive. I don't plan to fight for the championship this year so to start in this way, leading the race – only for six laps, but leading the race - has been positive for the confidence, for my mind. Knowing that it's possible and that I can do it. It just puts the motivation very high. Now I'm just hoping that I can have the same situation because I expect that I will manage it better.
During your two championship winning years in Moto2, it was normal to see you building your way into a race, and getting faster toward the end. In Qatar your pace was explosive from the start. What changed?

Johann Zarco:
I'm still wondering what has changed! For sure, the soft tyre, compared to my opponents, could help this performance. And maybe the fact that I'm not under pressure, like I was in Moto2 last year, this can help me to just go. It's not good for the championship and points, but less pressure. I was just scared [in case] I was not on the pace. Finally, I was on the pace [more] than the others. But this is not usually my style. It's another thing that is positive. It's good that I did it like this. I have more options for the future.
In spite of the continued delays, you remained calm before the start. We've heard that some riders – Jorge Lorenzo for instance - undergo mental training to stay focussed in these types of situations. How do you train for this aspect?

Johann Zarco:
As I say, the pressure was last year, when I was playing for a second title. I felt this pressure and I had to live with that. That's why the longer time on the grid was not a big problem. It was necessary to stay calm and I'm not a nervous guy. That's why I could keep this concentration.
Over the winter months have you changed your riding style a lot to adapt to the Yamaha M1?

Johann Zarco:
I'm lucky to have this Yamaha bike. The base is so good that for all rookies on the Yamaha – we are two, me and Jonas. It's our chance to learn on it. I have to change things and since the Valencia test we saw that there was good potential on the bike, and I needed to take the time to understand the things. Maybe it was a surprise to be there in Qatar. It's also a sign that I learn something quicker than what I expect. So I just need to stay on this way and keep pushing.
What is the biggest thing you've had to learn on the bike?

Johann Zarco:
It's difficult to say really what is the biggest thing I need to learn. It's just adapting yourself as well as possible and adapting the work to do with the team, because there is information that you need to think about. Adapt the work and adapt yourself.
At the final test in Qatar, when your team-mate ended the second day third, you openly admitted he was better at learning how to find a bike's limits. You seemed comfortable saying that too, which is rare for a rider. Do you put this down to experience, knowing your weaknesses and accepting them?

Johann Zarco:
I think so, yes. I learn with the motorbike, with experience to be on a high level every week. It helps me also to grow up as a man. So, I can think that we all love motorbikes. That's why if he is better than me I can be happy for him. He's a nice guy. Getting angry because he's faster than me will not help me be faster so why not stay positive?
You have access to Valentino and Maverick's data. Have you seen anything they do on the bike that is particularly impressive?

Johann Zarco:
Yes. I can see these kinds of things. I can compare my style with them. It's just fantastic to see how good they are at managing the bike. I think the more you do laps, the more you are able to manage the bike in the way they are doing. But yes, I am impressed because it looks like [they are] a computer. They anticipate all the movements on the bike. Also changing the riding, they can adapt well. So that's nice to see and I the fact that I can just ride and get experience helps to find and reach this point.
So it's how they adapt their body position as the grip changes, fuel load goes down… things like this?

Johann Zarco:
Yes, this. And playing with the throttle, playing with the brake, front and rear. Finally, there are four things to manage: the throttle; front brake; rear brake; and gears. You can see that with these four things, they manage it automatically. For me, it's coming but the way [that I do it] is something which I can still grow.
You've won two world championships. Which brought the greater satisfaction - 2015 or 2016?

Johann Zarco:
Both. Really, the first one you think that after this long time when you are hoping you will be champion and then you are… But then the second one is like more about the pressure. It was sometimes difficult. Everybody was expecting me [to win] and I could be there. Both [gave me] satisfaction but the experience was not the same.
So defending the title in '16 brought a lot more pressure?

Johann Zarco:
Yes. Because also I had less advantage in the championship so this makes you more pressured when in 2015, almost every race, I was getting advantage, advantage on the second [rider] in the championship. The second guy changed many times. It was Tito [Rabat]. Then it was [Alex] Rins. [Thomas] Luthi sometimes. But I was there all the time. [My lead was] One point then ten points, every time more points. 2016 was different.
Have you found your life has changed a lot recently in terms of the coverage or attention you receive in France?

Johann Zarco:
I expected more attention after the second title and there was not. We can say it was a shame but my life didn't change. I can live wherever, doing my passion, so that's already a very good thing. Because people didn't pay too much attention to the second title I was thinking, 'Why not do it in MotoGP also like this?' If I can be the best in MotoGP we will speak about motorbikes in France. I think it's possible because after leading six laps in MotoGP we already talked about motorbikes more than we did after my two titles.
When you were riding in Aki Ajo's team in Moto2, you always said the feeling within the squad was vital to your form. This feeling within a team is very important to you…

Johann Zarco:
For me and my coach, the spirit of the squad is so important. We felt good with Aki. After the Australian test with my coach [Laurent Fellon – also Zarco's manager] we felt that we are good also in this team. We even didn't start the races, we were feeling that we have the good team with us. It's just perfect and now it's time to enjoy it.
And has the fact you are working with a French team made the transition easier?

Johann Zarco:
Yeah, I didn't expect that, but yes. We've known them for a long time, even if I didn't work with them. I start with them and it looks like I already know them.
Early into last year, it appeared you had some kind of agreement to race with Suzuki in MotoGP. What happened there?

Johann Zarco:
There was no plan to have the Suzuki bike in 2017. Just, we were preparing things and preparing tests during the season. But then they chose Rins. And now, after the experience, and knowing my new team, I can think that it was a good thing. Things have happened well for me.
So there was no chance of you lining up with Suzuki this year? Even if that was as a satellite rider?

Johann Zarco:
I don't know. I was not discussing that. I have a manager doing that and I trust him.
Rossi always points to training at his ranch with younger riders as one of the reasons he is able to maintain his competitiveness. You have a race school for young French riders. What do you get from this experience?

Johann Zarco:
For me these riders are too young [to compete against]! For Rossi he is taking the riders already on the world championship level so he can fight with them. Me, they are between six and twelve years old so at the moment it's complicated to fight with them. But looking at them on the track helps me to see things and compare styles. Sometimes if I look at a rider on the track in MotoGP, Moto2 or Moto3, I can see things that I didn't see before. So to grow up it's interesting.
What's your main motivation for running the race school?

Johann Zarco:
I think that with my coach he puts a lot of energy for me to reach this level as a rider. He says, 'We did this with Zarco so we can do it with another one.' It's just the way to go, the way to make a method, and race.
Has Qatar changed how you view the rest of the season, in terms of expectations?

Johann Zarco:
The main target is to be the rookie of the year. I need to be in the top ten to take this target. But after this first race, why not be in the top six? So, let's see what Argentina will tell me.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Zarco, Argentinian MotoGP 2017
Nicky Hayden - A tribute
Private testing action from Barcelona
Morning (left) and afternoon (right) lap times from Weds at Barcelona test
Marquez fall at private Barcelona test
Barcelona Circuit of Catalunya chicane final sector
New Catalunya chicane during private test
New chicane in use at Catalunya MotoGP test
Pedrosa, Zarco, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017
Baz, French MotoGP 2017
Rossi, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Iannone, French MotoGP 2017
Folger, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017
Dovizioso, Crutchlow, French MotoGP 2017
Vinales, Zarco, Rossi, French MotoGP 2017

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April 14, 2017 3:18 PM

Zarco displays the poise, humility and perspective that comes with winning a couple of world titles. Without naming anyone in MotoGP, did you notice the relaxed persona, no hyperbole, no if and or buts, no patting himself on the back. Extremely focused, polite and respectful. Good dude no doubt.

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