Johann Zarco has every chance of starting the 2018 MotoGP season where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign: fighting for the top of the timesheets.

Second overall and top Yamaha at the previous Thailand test, the Tech3 rider went one better to be fastest of all in the final pre-season test in Qatar, edging out factory Yamaha's Valentino Rossi by 0.247s.

"I'm happy that I finished on top. It's so great for the team and me, giving the confidence and the smile," he said. "Knowing that doing this good work, keeping our method I can improve. So happy for that."

But while Zarco may now be pre-event favourite for pole position in the season-opening event, race victory is a different matter - the Frenchman admitting he was 'a bit slow' during his long run.

Wryly acknowledging that he continues to be haunted by falling from the lead on his MotoGP debut one year ago, Zarco was also honest enough to say that several tenths of race pace need to come from him.

"When I tried to find the race pace, I've been a bit slow. Very constant, but too slow. We know why and we still have the race weekend to prepare a better pace and after three days of tests I didn't want to do some mistakes. So I was keeping maybe a bit too calm.

"When you go for the race you have a very aggressive mind, ready to fight. And when I went out for my last laps for this long run I was a bit tired and after setting the good lap time I was like happy and just wanting to finish the day.

"I did the work and maybe a few tenths we find on the bike, but a few tenths I can find by myself! Being able to do this fast [single] lap time means we have a potential for the victory. We just need to manage everything well."

That probably includes letting go of his turn two mishap in 2017.

"When I did the race simulation I was thinking, 'first of all, do six laps!' [laughs]. And when I did six laps I was kind of happy and then I said, 'okay, now I'll continue!'

"So I tried to, step-by-step, forget this moment, because still in corner two I'm thinking about last year."

But it's been an overwhelmingly positive twelve months for Zarco since that incident, the double Moto2 champion going on to claim three podiums, two pole positions, four fastest laps and sixth in the world championship during his rookie year.

"Having one-year of experience is fantastic, I understand well the Yamaha, the electronic. I can say so many things to my team and I'm happy for that," he said.

"Now you must prepare your body and your mind to start the season. I'll relax to have full body power in two weeks, but the mind will remain connected."

Zarco new rookie team-mate Hafizh Syahrin set the 15th fastest lap time.

The season-opening race takes place at the same Losail Circuit from March 16-18.


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