Johann Zarco: COTA was good for Rins! He’s incredible there

Johann Zarco: 'COTA was good for Rins! He’s just incredible there... I think with the Yamaha he will also be good.'

Alex Rins, MotoGP race, Grand Prix of the Americas, 16 April
Alex Rins, MotoGP race, Grand Prix of the Americas, 16 April

Johann Zarco heads to this weekend’s COTA MotoGP round having taken over the LCR Honda seat of last year’s shock winner Alex Rins.

Rins approached what was also the third event of last season having finished no higher than ninth in the previous rounds.

But the Austin specialist went on to deliver a front row in qualifying, second place in the Sprint and then broke Honda’s victory drought by winning the grand prix.

Zarco heads to the USA this weekend with a best of 12th from the opening rounds of this season and is quick to admit Rins made the difference on the RC213V last year.

“COTA was good for Rins!” Zarco said. “He’s just incredible there. Since Moto3, he was nearly always on the podium and I think with the Yamaha he will be good also in COTA [this year].”

As far as his own prospects, the Frenchman - a COTA winner in Moto2 but without a podium in the premier-class - confirmed that the quest for more rear grip, especially in the traction area, remains his top priority.

“We had more problems with the rear of the bike [in Portimao] than Qatar,” he said. “But the information we get in the races is the best kind. We are going forward step by step. Just we cannot do a huge step in one time. It's not possible at the moment, but it's part of the of the challenge.”

“I’m very focused and don't lose any concentration or motivation. Because it's just the beginning and I'm really confident,” he added. “Honda are working on it and always we have a confirmation of what we are missing, but as I said, they cannot build something new in one race.”

Honda brought some new parts to the Portimao, including a revised swingarm, but so far the developments have only made a small impact on rear grip.

“To give you an idea, maybe we are 30% away from the good thing and when we changed something this [Portimao] weekend, it's maybe 2-3 percent [better]. So you are still like 27% away,” he said.

“Trying [new] parts of the bike didn't help to really get a huge solution on track.

“I really trust Honda. I see they are working so hard and at least step by step, we know also what is not good to do. So that will also be useful to go forward.”


Zarco ‘not scared’ of losing skill

While a sudden breakthrough has proved elusive for the HRC engineers, Zarco insists he won’t lose confidence and is prepared to be patient.

“I was scared when I moved from the Yamaha to the KTM and that's why I quit in KTM [in 2019]. I was really worried about losing my skill,” Zarco said. “I don't have this [fear] anymore because from what I learned in Ducati, I got so many references also about myself that I can see much better the situation.

“Thanks to this, I can really split my mind between, ‘where can the material be and where can I be’. It's a good question, but thanks to my age and my experience, I know that I can trust in this project. And almost I would say wait, because I have enough experience not to lose confidence.”

When I was in KTM I was not even able to fight and now - OK, it's a fight for 12th, 13th or 14th position - but the level of everyone is so close now that even a fight around 12th position means something.

“We are out of the game. So that's also why I'm happy to do this challenge.”

Opening practice at COTA, where Zarco finished seventh as a Pramac Ducati rider last season, starts on Friday.

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