Just as he had pledged, Johann Zarco refused to be intimidated by some of MotoGP's biggest stars as he slugged it out for the race lead in Sunday's Phillip Island thriller.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookie had seen his front row qualifying go to waste when he was forced to back off at Turn 1, leaving him in seventh position.

But Zarco spectacularly fought his way forwards, snatching the lead from world champion Marc Marquez by lap 9 of 27.

The Frenchman remained in the thick of an incredible 300km/h battle to the chequered flag, leading for a total of seven laps while trading places - and occasionally tyre rubber - with the likes of Marquez, Valentino RossiMaverick Vinales, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow.

"Amazing. A good feeling to be able to fight, to overtake," said Zarco, speaking behind the Tech 3 pits. "I didn't start well, then when Miller overtook me I had to close the gas because we could touch.

"I wanted to be back with the top guys. I felt I could do it, so I had to fight and overtake. Then I was leading the race, tried to go away but managing the traction on this track is quite difficult when you are in first position and then I was fighting again.

"They overtook me and there were some hard moments with Marquez. It's part of racing and I lived some moments I've never lived before. Fighting at this speed is so incredible.

"It was like a Moto3 race, but we are 100km/h more! You need to live this emotion to believe it."

Pressed on the contact with Marquez at the hairpin, Zarco explained:

"Maverick overtook him in Turn 4 and I was almost at the same speed so I came into the corner, but Marquez we know is strong on corner entry. It was not possible for me to slow down more and I had to touch him.

"But he was clever because when he felt that something is wrong from the rear of his bike, he picked up the bike and we saved it.

"So it was hot but then he did the same to Valentino and Iannone did the same to me into Siberia, Corner 6. And then even Crutchlow touched me on the knee. But we are all fighters and we must keep fighting."

With Marquez later edging clear, Zarco spent the closing stages in an intense fight with the factory Yamahas of Rossi and Vinales.

Zarco exited the last corner in third and within arm's reach of Rossi. But a tighter line on the exit instead saw Zarco overtaken by Vinales in a photo-finish at the line. Zarco was 1.8s from Marquez and 0.050s from both factory M1s.

"I tried to get second place because I was feeling good behind Rossi. He is so strong on the brakes, closing the line well and you can see he has the experience. So I tried to have better acceleration by changing the line in the last corner, but instead of second I had fourth.

"But not to worry. After this kind of fight and kind of day I can just enjoy and take this fantastic moment.

"To be disappointed about the final result would be the wrong way to analyse the race. 1.8s from the winner, nearly second place, no way to be disappointed!" he insisted.

But Zarco did admit to being scared, "more than once!"

"It is an emotion to be fighting at over 300km/h, you can fight on other circuits but here I think you are really not many times under 200km/h. It's incredible and I want to call my coach and see the race with him!"

Zarco chose to race with soft tyres, front and rear.

"It was a good choice for me and today - the bike and me – were able to fight for victory. Marquez went away because he could manage even better, but we were ready to fight for victory."

Asked what he had learned in his duels with multiple MotoGP champions Marquez and Rossi, Zarco answered:

"I saw it before, but I had confirmation again that they are in a different planet these guys, because they can fight and analyse so many things at this speed and it's quite incredible."

Nonetheless, the race has also shown Zarco that he can 'think about victory'.

"I didn't expect to be strong and comfortable like today in Australia. So I need to come in Malaysia and go for the same target. Fight with the top guys and, if I feel good, think about victory. So that's a good point for the confidence."


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