MotoGP races tend to be just over 40 minutes long, but Johann Zarco is quickly developing the reputation for cramming a career's worth of drama into a little over half an hour.

At Assen, to borrow his phrase, he "could have been a god" as he gambled to pit for wet tyres when the rain started falling. Instead, the Frenchman went from "hero to zero" in just a matter of laps.

Starting from pole position, the class rookie spent the first eleven laps leading from the front. Even when the rain arrived on lap 19 he Zarco was still well placed in fourth, scrapping brilliantly with Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Danilo Petrucci.

However, seeing spots of rain on his visor when tackling Assen's fearsome final sector - which includes the awesome Meeuwenmeer and Hoge Heide rights before the awe-inspiring plunge into the Ramshoek left - did little for Zarco's calmness of mind. "With the slick tyres I was really scared," he admitted.

This fear coupled with a belief that only more rain was going to fall convinced the 26-year old to pit for wet tyres. The move backfired, and Zarco plunged down the order, eventually coming home the last of 14 finishers - his worst finish in the premier class by some margin.

Still, despite the disappointing result, Zarco would not be downbeat. "It's part of the game," he conceded. A lesson learned in his first flag-to-flag race. "It's my way to learn," he said.

"When they began to overtake me it was part of the race," said Zarco. "They were feeling good and I wanted to fight. Everything was going well. I was struggling at two points of the circuit.

"But even with this problem compared to them, I was able to stay. It was a bit difficult but it was possible to stay. I did more than half a race with them. I was leading a long time, a longer time than normal.

"After this nice start, I'm very happy. It was a positive race. Just when it began to rain I was really scared with the slick tyres. We are already on the limit when it's dry so you can imagine when it's a little bit wet you can crash.

"I didn't want to take this risk and I took the decision to come into the pit when they put out this white flag. So if it was raining more then I could be a god. Finally, from hero you go to zero but it's part of the game. It's my way to learn and go for podiums in the next races.

"It's Assen. It's difficult. I took the decision to go because I was scared with the slick in the rain. They were able to manage it but I was on the limit. I thought it would be better with the rain but finally there was not enough."

Speaking of his belief that it would rain further, Zarco explained, "On this safe feeling, it's important. When the marshal are putting the flag out about the rain, I was thinking Dutch marshals, they know the weather.

"If they put rain flag it means it's raining. You saw this morning there was some rain, and then there was heavy rain. You cannot know these kinds of things. The choice was to stay out because Rossi won. For me he took the risk so he deserved to win. I took the risk to go into the pits. I deserve what I got."

Not one to shy away from a scrap, Zarco attempted to retake the lead from Rossi almost as soon as the Italian had got by at turn one. It appeared the Frenchman's labours were a touch over eager, as he came close to taking himself and the illustrious race winner down.


"When he overtook me, he went a little bit wide two times," Zarco explained. "I took immediately the opportunity. Seeing if he can be wide, it's not so easy [for him]. I want to keep leading. It would be better for me to keep the pace being the leader.

"I wanted to stay in the front. When he went a little bit wide I tried to go inside but he was quite fast also. So we touch each other. It was just in the mind. I was leading. Because we begin to fight, I wanted to stay at the front to give me more chance.

"When we went into the corner three he went a little bit wide," he said. "I was better than him behind. I tried to keep the corner speed inside but his corner speed was quite good so we were both on the right side. I am on his right with my head totally on the right. I could not see. I took the decision. I waited to see if we had contact or not."

In spite the disappointing result in a race that promised so much, Zarco remains sixth in the world championship, ten points behind Dani Pedrosa.

By Neil Morrison

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