Johann Zarco: 2024 Honda “at least 0.7s quicker, big admiration for Marc Marquez”

Johann Zarco reveals the scale of Honda's progress from its 2023 machine to the 2024 Valencia prototype... and there's another new bike at Sepang.

Johann Zarco, Valencia MotoGP test 28 November
Johann Zarco, Valencia MotoGP test 28 November

After a positive Shakedown test at Sepang last week, Johann Zarco has revealed more details about the size of Honda’s progress with its heavily-revised 2024 MotoGP bike.

The Frenchman, switching to LCR after four seasons at Ducati, was third quickest out of 13 riders at the Shakedown, just 0.2s from the KTM of Pedro Acosta.

Always you are happy when the lap time is coming,” Zarco said on the eve of the Official Sepang test, which starts on Tuesday.  “I didn't expect it, so that's why it's an even better feeling than I could expect.

“But clearly already the changes the Honda did and what they brought in Valencia was quite interesting and this gave me very good hopes during the winter.

“Then I got confirmation of this during the two days I did of the Shakedown.

“I'm happy because it seems a good time now to do this job with Honda and the way Honda brings the new things is helping a lot. That feels pretty good.”

The Frenchman, who finally broke his MotoGP victory drought at Phillip Island last year, admitted he had been braced for a tougher introduction to the RC213V, which finished last in the 2023 constructors' standings.

“I wanted to take this challenge knowing that, with the way I’ve grown up as a person, I can enjoy even in difficult times and be able to take something positive during a weekend or analyse all the situation.

“But fortunately, although I'm ready to do that, it seems that I can enjoy [without] having too many difficult times. So that's the most positive at the moment from the Valencia test and the Shakedown.”

Zarco added that the working relationship between LCR and Honda feels just as close as Pramac and Ducati.   

He also put a surprisingly large number to the size of improvement Honda had made between last year’s troubled machine and the initial Valencia 2024 prototype.

“At least 7 tenths! Which in Valencia is quite good,” Zarco smiled. “I did only two runs on the old [2023] bike - but that's why we moved straight away to the new one.

“I have again big admiration for what Marc [Marquez] did [with the old bike] last year.”

Although LCR predecessor Alex Rins was Honda’s only race winner last year, Marquez was again consistently the top RCV rider, including a Motegi podium, before jumping ship to Gresini Ducati.

Zarco confirmed that, like the factory Repsol Honda riders Joan Mir and Luca Marini, he now has one of the 2024 Valencia prototypes at Sepang plus another newer bike, thought to have a different engine spec.

“I got two different bike specs [here], yes,” he said. “It’s good to have the extra [shakedown] time for back-to-back tests… And we will always prefer whichever bike that is doing the [best] lap time!

“For me, the weak point I had on the Ducati was the way to brake or to slow down well the bike,” he explained. “Even if it could be a strong point of the bike, for me I could not really handle it well with my style.

“And on the Honda, at the moment, I can control well this area and that's why I'm quite happy.”

The Official Sepang test takes place from February 6-8.

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