A front tyre issue was culpable for Johann Zarco’s descent through the top eight after he sensationally led the first 17 laps of the opening MotoGP race of the year at the Losail International Circuit, the Frenchman has claimed.

According to Zarco, he experienced “some alerts” as early as the seventh lap but held off a fearsome seven-rider train until two-thirds distance. From there he was unable to maintain his place, and eventually fell back to finish a frustrating eighth.

Zarco said members of the Tech 3 team and his Michelin technician confirmed “something was wrong” with the front tyre soon after the race, excusing him of fault in his eyes, meaning he was attempting to remain positive soon after the race.

“I got the best I could,” said Zarco. “I did what I could do, I did the job, and when I have a technician from Michelin and also on my team saying that something has been wrong, it means that OK, the rider's job is done.

“When you are doing this kind of sport, this can happen. That's why. I keep smiling, and anyway, eighth position when you have a problem, it means you are competitive. And I was leading the race, maybe I was slow but nobody overtook me, which means I was good today."

When asked to specify the issues with his front tyre, Zarco explained, “It was sliding. Just sliding. You go into the corner and instead of turning, you go wide. Or if you want to turn you can crash. It was this kind of problem.

“[It] Much worse at the end of the race, but I had some alerts maybe after seven, eight laps. And I was wondering, I was worried, thinking, that strange feeling, maybe it's too cold or maybe the others have the same problem.

“So I was leading and waiting to see what would happen. And I saw that the others could keep the pace and I could not.”

A spokesman for Michelin confirmed the profile of Zarco’s front tyre was unusual at the close of the race, but would make no further comment until tests were conducted on the rubber.

Commenting on the moment with Marquez on the exit of turn one that ultimately spelled the end of his time at the front of an absorbing race, the double Moto2 world champion said, “[It] Was like a race moment. Dovizioso overtook me in the straight, then we start to brake and Marc is coming, and we know Marc is able to do fantastic things.

“He went a little bit wide, so immediately I came inside and tried to keep my position. But he kept also his position, and then he had the advantage in corner two. I wanted to keep fighting for the rest, but with this front tyre problem, I could not fight and then from this moment five laps to the end, I had to accept to take what I can.”

With the Tech 3 Yamaha out in front, the race had echoes of the MotoGP curtain raiser from twelve months. This time, however, Zarco appeared more assured and confirmed it was his intention to gather as much experience at the front of a MotoGP as possible.

“That's why I want to lead races,” he explained. “The more I can do, the more it is becoming normal, and I think compared to last year, I was much more under control than last year. So that was a great feeling.

“Almost I was feeling slow, but as I say, if I am staying in front and nobody passes me, it means that we are not so slow, so happy for that.”

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