He may have appeared glum and downcast, but Johann Zarco tried to remain upbeat after an the epic MotoGP outing at Assen, when he had no answer for the leading group and could finish no higher than eighth.

The Frenchman found his Tech 3 Yamaha to be “sliding a bit too much” as the race neared its conclusion, a factor that began to tire him as he attempted to keep up with the mesmeric, fairing-bashing battle ahead.

Revealing he had hopes of challenging for the podium, Zarco admitted his work through a weekend, which was disrupted by a fast fall at turn seven on Friday, was not enough to tweak his package into one that was capable of challenging the leading men.

Attempting to find the positives, the double Moto2 world champion pointed to his current championship position of fourth; with fellow-Yamaha man Valentino Rossi 18 points ahead in second, Zarco is aiming to challenge for the runner-up spot in the coming weeks.

“[I’m] Happy about the race today,” said Zarco, seven seconds back of race winner Marc Marquez at the chequered flag. “I’ve been able to fight from the first lap and overtake riders, keep the contact with the top guys, maybe come back a little bit on the top group and that’s very positive feelings I was missing since two races.

“So [I’m] happy for that, to be back in this fight and why I could not be on the podium or fight for top five until the end of the race, I think because the last 7 laps I was sliding a bit too much and because we maybe still do not do the right thing during all the weekend, it was still the disadvantage I had during the race.

“It’s a lesson, experience, to stay with these top guys, finish eighth, get the points, still fourth in championship, it’s great because I was struggling but finishing the race and keep the position in championship when you are in a difficult moment it’s so great for me.

“Now [to] dream about the second place in championship because this is possible, Valentino is not that far, only Marc is going away but I accept that he is the strong rider on the standing, on his bike controlling everything and the target is to be like him and why not fight for second place.”

On his views of the epic scrap ahead, Zarco continued: “It’s so good, there was a moment in the race they were not so fast that in that moment I was well behind them but still even fighting with myself, you know. So that’s maybe my weak point, when they are going slow they are resting more the body than me, then when they have to give something more in the pace, they saved the energy before.

“Me, I still today had this problem that when I came back on them, even in the group I was not so comfortable, so then when they increased the pace I could not keep it. But it’s pretty nice and we are able to brake well...

“I’m part of them but on every detail they are strong, they brake well, they come well into the corner and in the moment you say, ‘Wow, he did a great brake’, he is already opening the throttle and going away” so it’s nice to see.”

Zarco went against the decision of Movistar Yamaha men Rossi and Maverick Viñales to go with Michelin’s soft rear tyre, instead opting for the hard. Could the soft had offered better grip?

“To have this constancy in the race, I think that with the soft one I could have too much movement and movement from the rear then makes a very unstable bike, so no, the choice was a good one but we can see different choice from many riders and you have everything on the podium.

“The hard (rear) one for me was great, had I put on the soft I would have had too much movement after half race.”

And the reason why the battle at the front was so close and frenetic? “The wind was strong,” said Zarco. “Without the wind we can do all the race in 1m 33.9s, 33.8s I think. We had the best lap in 1m 34.2-34s. I think. I think the top guys understand quickly that if you want to be in 33 you must risk your life and we are clever enough to say, ‘OK, I stay in the 1m 34s and see what happens.”