Honda: “We knew there was a risk that Johann Zarco may say ‘what’s going on?’"

LCR Honda admit that bringing in then-Ducati rider Johann Zarco was risky

Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco

The LCR Honda boss has acknowledged the risk of bringing in Johann Zarco, who last year was a beneficiary of MotoGP’s best bike.

Zarco’s decision to swap Pramac Ducati for Honda’s satellite team means he moves from last season’s top machine to its worst.

And the team’s decision to place their faith - on a longer-than-usual deal - in a rider accustomed to more luxuries was risky.

Lucio Cecchinello, the LCR Honda boss, said: “Honestly, we knew there was a risk that once he tried our bike we would say ‘what is going on?’

“He arrived calmly. He didn’t appreciate the 2023 bike. But as soon as he tried the 2024 model, he said ‘this is a bike that definitely has positive points compared to Ducati, but also some negative points’.

“Also, we offered him a two-year contract and we are open to extending the contract because we need an experienced rider like him to develop the bike.

“He is more calm, more relaxed, secure, to work step by step.

“We know that we have a long path to recover. We are still missing several tenths.

“We’re at the beginning of a new journey.”

Zarco was 10th, 12th and 16th across the three days of the preseason Sepang test.

But his optimism was an intriguing hint that Honda could make meaningful progress this year, with the help of the new concessions rule.

Cecchinello says that the factory team now use their feedback more than in previous seasons.

Marc Marquez’s huge exit from Repsol Honda means the manufacturer, once a MotoGP juggernaut, is at a low ebb.

Part of their attempts to drag themselves further up the grid is giving greater value to the guidance from their satellite team.

“I must say, we are very pleased,” Cecchinello said about working with the factory Honda team.

“We have always been pleased to work with Honda because the relationship is very close.

“I can say we are closer than ever because they really need four riders selecting the parts, to provide feedback.

“They use us more compared to the past.

“We have more engineers here. There are 80 engineers at this test.

“We are pleased with this effort.”

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