Johann Zarco conceded he “did not do something incredible” at the Chang International Circuit, but the Frenchman was nonetheless “pretty happy” to finish fifth and return to the victory fight for the first time in five months.

The double Moto2 world champion revealed “a lot of smiles” had returned to the Tech 3 team after he fought with the leading group during the race’s first half before regrouping to retake Alex Rins on the final lap.

The third of the three Yamaha M1s in the top five, Zarco was careful to not overstate his performance. But there was relief he was among the leading names once again, taking advantage of a rare weekend when his package was capable of a podium place.

“[I’m] Pretty happy,” said Zarco. “It was a tough race. Difficult for the body to cope with the warmth, the intensity of the race. I’m pretty happy I was one of them. If it was hard for me, it was also hard for them, and this also motivated me to keep pushing. I was feeling good at the beginning of the race – better than Maverick.

“But trying to overtake him, I did a mistake and lost a few positions. And then the pace, I could keep it but not easy enough to really stay with them and play with them. But I was able to stay not far from them. Also I tried to keep some energy because the race is so long. Things happen during the race.

“I was not able to catch them [the first group] but I said, ‘OK, keep pushing because you can find something and still things can happen.’ In the end the top four went away a little bit and I saw the last three laps I had enough energy to push again. I saw that I could catch Alex.

“It exactly happened like that. On the last lap I was really close to him. Maybe he felt the pressure. He tried to close the door in corner nine and went a bit wide. I could overtake him, brake well for the last corner and catch the fifth position.

“Three Yamahas in the top five so it didn’t mean I did something incredible but we were competitive here and immediately when the bike is working we are ready to be at the top level. It gives a lot of smiles to all the team.”

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In recent rounds Zarco has been physically destroyed come the race’s end. But despite the blistering afternoon temperatures, he still had the strength to produce a late attack on Rins by the last lap.

Here, he said, was not so much a “fight” with his package, as it had been in previous weekends. “I was exhausted in the last three races I finished – Austria, Misano and Aragon – because instead of fighting with the others, I was fighting with my own bike.

“Now because the conditions, it has been difficult, but it was not a fight with the bike. It was trying to control the bike and it’s totally different. Then I was able to control the bike, and I could fight with the others. This is a real race.”

On his selection of Michelin’s medium front and hard rear, he said, “I had grip levels that was the same for all the race. But I saw the others, who had something better and then had something a bit worse than me.

“Maybe the left side of the [rear] tyre has been the worst drop for all the bikes. There were some bikes that had the drop seven laps from the end. For me it was more the last four or three laps when I got the drop. But I saw it was the same situation for the other.”

Any why did he feel Yamaha was so competitive here when, just two weeks ago, Rossi, Viñales and him struggled to eighth, tenth and 14th?

“For me, I think sector two, three and four has been good for the Yamaha because it’s a lot of entry of the corner,” he said. “Then you must go fast in the corner and just keep the speed and don’t have a strong acceleration.

“Only in corner twelve and corner three. But corner twelve could be the worst one. But all the others, it’s more corner speed than acceleration and that’s why I think we’ve been competitive.”

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