Friday update: Yamaha's Lin Jarvis confirms a proposal has been made for Johann Zarco to become Yamaha's 2020 test rider.

Johann Zarco has made clear that a MotoGP test and wild-card role is his preferred choice for 2020, since it would offer the best chance of making a full-time return to the premier-class.

Given the Frenchman's past success at Tech3, before the ill-fated KTM move, a place at Yamaha's test team would seem the best fit.

With the factory's current European test rider Jonas Folger considering his future in light of a potential return to Moto2 or Superbike, it is understood that initial discussions have already taken place between Zarco and Yamaha.

On Thursday at Buriram, Monster Yamaha's Maverick Vinales was asked if he thought Zarco as a Yamaha test rider would be a good move for the M1 project.

"It's very difficult to say because for sure Johann is a great rider who should not have to be testing, he should be racing!" replied the Spaniard.

But Vinales, Yamaha's only race winner for the past two years, also felt that Zarco's clear desire to make a racing return means he would push the bike to the limit to prove himself against the current riders.

"For sure he would push the bike at the maximum and try to beat us on the lap times," Vinales said. "That's a really important point because it's not the same when you test something at 1-1.5s [per lap slower] compared to when you are on a good rhythm.

"So we'll see if Johann can bring this momentum and see what he can do. But it's very difficult to give an opinion because I don’t know [if he will get the testing role]."

Petronas Yamaha's Franco Morbidelli said of the Zarco rumours: "Of course Johann is a great rider and can be a really good test rider. But I don’t know what are his plans or Yamaha's plans for the future."

Zarco has been released from the second year of his KTM contract but, after replacing the #5 with Mika Kallio for the remainder of the season, the Austrian factory made clear they would not stand in the way should an opportunity arise for Zarco before the end of this year.

Turning to this weekend's Thai MotoGP round, Vinales confirmed that he once again intends to try the latest Yamaha parts during Friday practice.

"Yes the plan is to try to improve the new parts to see if we can gain something," he said of the new exhaust and carbon fibre swingarm. "But in Aragon finally we went back [to the standard parts] because we were not sure.

"But here we have another opportunity, that's the Friday job, to understand if it's better or not. Then we will see for Saturday."

Vinales made a big step with last year's M1 after moving more weight to the rear of the bike in Buriram. This year he arrives confident that a set-up tweak at Aragon has solved his lack of pace at the start of races.

"The basic change is on the set-up. We are trying to better compromise between full tank and less fuel, so I can push more at the beginning of the races," he confirmed.

"I have a very good feeling at this track. I think this year we arrive with better momentum and I will try to take the maximum from the bike in FP1 and then see where we are at.

"Sure we understand that we are going to get weak points but we can work a lot in the other parts of the track."

Vinales is currently fifth in the world championship, one place lower than his 2018 position, but feels that doesn't reflect the progress made.

"Already it's much more positive [this year than last] because we solved a lot of problems during the season and somehow I feel we are growing up," he said. "Last season I felt sometimes going down rather than growing up, and I think this year all the steps we do are better.

"My main target is to be on the podium at the next races, get consistency and finish the season on a really good level, which will give us good confidence and good momentum to try the parts and other new things."

 

Comments

Loading Comments...