Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco hopes to finish the season as the top Independent rider after the door was left open following Cal Crutchlow’s unfortunate injury at Phillip Island in Australia.

LCR Honda’s Crutchlow was left with a broken ankle after coming off in free practice on Friday. The British rider, fifth in the championship, holds a cushion of 15 points over Zarco in the race to seal the Independent honours.

Frenchman Zarco qualified third fastest, half-a-second down on pole man Marc Marquez’s time after the weather-affected Q2 session, and Zarco hopes he can maintain a similar level of performance in Sunday’s race.

“I have some chance to be on the podium because we know it is a special track where always something is possible here in Phillip Island,” Zarco said.

“The race pace from FP1, FP2, FP3 and even FP4, was not fast enough to be on the podium, but really not far and much stronger than what I got in Japan.

“Now, after this good feeling I got during qualifying, I want to confirm tomorrow and see if the little step that was missing, I can get it, and I cross my fingers to be on the podium,” he added.

“It will be useful to catch some points on Cal (Crutchlow) because he did a nice race in Japan and he took an advantage, and also Danilo (Petrucci), who is also in the race; so we have our small championship together and I need to finish the race to catch points on them.”

Zarco said the mixed conditions during qualifying, with rain falling around the circuit, added to the mental pressure faced by the riders.

“Already in the box we were two minutes from the start and we saw almost like heavy rain. We tried to prepare the bike for the rain but I saw the guys going out with the slick tyres, so I have to go out with the slick and you see these drops on the visor, on the helmet, on the screen also of your bike,” he said.

“You wonder if you can push or not but you know the track is normally still dry, so it is almost a switch to do in the mind and this has been difficult.

“I’m happy because this worked well because I got a good lap time on the fist exit after three laps and on the second exit, I hope I can do even better because I saw the lap time of Marc and I did not expect to beat because for me it was too fast,” said Zarco, who will switch to KTM for 2019.

“Even if I did not improve at the end – because there was a black cloud and this one also made me a bit scared because there were some other drops – I got the third and I am really happy for this.”

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