Johann Zarco had to settle for his second MotoGP podium after believing victory was possible at Sepang, but the French rider described his rostrum result as ‘just perfect’.

Zarco started from the front row for the third time in three races in Malaysia and took the lead of the race before he was caught and passed by Ducati riders Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso.

He was unable to strike back, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was able to keep Marc Marquez at bay to finish third, confirming his position as the top Independent rider of 2017 with one race still to go at Valencia in Spain.

The premier class rookie, who used the soft Michelin rear tyre, said: “I was thinking yes, I can win the race. I was happy at the start, it was quite good and Lorenzo did a good start but Marc came by quite late and they went wide, both, so I was inside and then leading the race.

“We were not going as fast as the lap time we did on Friday but it was enough to stay in first position and also keep a small gap. I was focused to try to do as well as possible. Then when they caught me I expected that I could fight with them because Lorenzo overtook me in corner nine and straight after, in corner 14, Dovi also,” added Zarco.

“I say maybe I can fight and stay with them but I was losing a lot in acceleration and I don’t think it’s the rear tyre, because we are at the limit with the grip, so the soft tyre was a good choice to stay in front and lead the race at the beginning when it was the worst conditions at the beginning.”

The back-to-back Moto2 world champion attempted to match the pace of the Ducati pair but decided to play it safe after he lost the rear of his M1 twice.

“When I lost the rear two times trying to follow them I said don’t do any stupid mistakes, stay focused and hope that they will drop and I could catch them,” he said.

“But it never happened and they kept pulling away and then Marc closed in one moment, then I could push again and keep some good pace. He dropped more than me and I finished third, so I’m so happy and it’s nice to have a second podium. I started the race with victory in mind and you don’t have the victory, but you enjoy the podium and that’s just perfect.”

Zarco has excelled this season following his switch to the MotoGP class and the 27-year-old is thrilled to have claimed the Independent title for Herve Poncharal’s satellite Yamaha team.

“The first target for the beginning of the season was to be the first rookie because my team-mate is strong as us and also we knew overall that Alex [Rins] with the factory Suzuki can be competitive, but he just injured himself at the first test and he had a difficult season,” said Zarco, who is sixth overall in the championship.

“I was fighting well in the first races to be the first Independent so I am happy that now it is confirmed before we go to Valencia and we can enjoy a lot with the team because we grow up a lot. I understand many more things on the bike and I can give them good information and we improve a lot together.”


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