Last year's Spanish MotoGP at Jerez was a memorable event for then rookie Johann Zarco, who finished as the top Yamaha rider for the first time in his young premier-class career.

In a sign of things to come, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider showed no trepidation as he carving past Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez in the space of 4 laps, putting him second behind eventual winner Dani Pedrosa.

Zarco kept hold of a podium place until lap 12 of 27, when Jorge Lorenzo moved ahead, and went on to claim a solid fourth place on a day when Movistar Yamaha riders Maverick Vinales and Rossi limped home in sixth and tenth.

It was the first major setback for the 2017 factory M1, which would ultimately see the official team join Zarco on what is effectively a 2016 frame for this season.

The Frenchman returns to a resurfaced Jerez for the opening European round of 2018 amid rumours he will become a factory KTM rider next season. That could be confirmed this weekend, where Zarco's goal will be a second podium of the season.

"We’re back to Europe with the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, a track, that I think everybody likes and I enjoy it, too. I’ve got some great memories from last year and I want an even better souvenir this year," said Zarco, currently tied on points with Cal Crutchlow for fourth in the world championship following a sixth place in Texas.

"I feel the bike well and after Texas I needed some time to get along with the jetlag, which was quite difficult this time. It took me two days to have the full energy during the day back, but now I feel ready enough and I’m just happy to be back on my bike.

"I’ll try to push the Yamaha in the right way to fight for the victory, if we are able to do so. Let’s trust in the victory and the podium and wait and see what happens.”

Team-mate Hafizh Syahrin continues to lead the Rookie of the Year standings despite his first DNF in Austin, which followed a hefty fall in warm-up.

“I’m looking forward to the next race in Jerez de la Frontera. My physical condition is getting better and better and I think I learned what I need for the big bike," said the Malaysian.

"After the disappointment in Texas, I’m feeling good again and I was training a lot with the bicycle, dirt bike and trial, so I’m more than ready to get it started again. I will try to avoid to repeat the mistake I did in the Americas GP Warm Up and I hope I can end up in the points scoring positions again.”

Team manager Herve Poncharal is hoping for a repeat of Zarco's 2017 heroics and a return to the points for Syahrin.

“We at Monster Yamaha Tech3 arrive in Jerez with an interesting position being the joint independent team leader with Johann and Cal Crutchlow equal on points and leading the rookie classification with Hafizh.

"We have great memories of how Johann and the Yamaha YZR-M1 are working in Jerez from last year, where he had an incredible fight, leading the race for some laps, fighting with Marc Marquez and only giving up the podium to Jorge Lorenzo. Let’s hope we can repeat this kind of performance this year. Johann is eager to continue the incredible start of year he is having.

"On Hafizh’ side, I would say the same. He was really disappointed, that he was not able to score in Texas, but we could see that in Qualifying and before the crash he was very fast and he will want to be fast like this again and fighting with his fellow rookies.

"Spain is a special country for him, because this is his base in Europe. He has a lot of fans there and his nickname is ‘El Pescao’, therefore this round is one of his second home GPs."

 

 

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