Johann Zarco has been confirmed as returning to MotoGP action as a replacement for Takaaki Nakagami at LCR Honda.

The Frenchman, who split from the factory KTM team after Misano, will take over at Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia while Nakagami undergoes shoulder surgery.

However, the three-race stint is also widely seen as a chance for Zarco to show his potential on an RCV, should the struggling Jorge Lorenzo not continue at Repsol Honda next year. Especially since HRC test rider Stefan Bradl was also available.

“What an opportunity to have the last few races of the season on the LCR Honda IDEMITSU bike," Zarco said. "I’m really thankful to have this chance, and I will do my best to pick up some good results and to enjoy the time, because these could be the last three races I can do for a while.

"I would like to thank KTM for releasing me so that I can do these races on another bike. Let’s see what I can do. First of all I know that I will enjoy the Phillip Island track, it’s a fast circuit and I think the feeling could be good.

"We’ll cross our fingers that it can be, and we will see what is possible. The target is to ride at a good pace, and rediscover some of the good feeling I’ve had before.”

Despite the speculation over Lorenzo's future, LCR team principal Lucio Cecchinello said it had been his idea to hire Zarco.

“Obviously we are very sorry that Nakagami is forced to miss the last three races of this season, but on the other hand we know that injuries are part and parcel of this sport," Cecchinello said.

"I proposed to HRC Director Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Team Manager Alberto Puig the idea of engaging Zarco as our replacement rider and they gave me their approval.

"When I contacted Zarco he immediately showed interest and together we worked on every step of this project that will conclude in Valencia. From our side we will ensure maximum effort to support Johann, a rider who has shown immense talent and professionalism in his racing career.”

Zarco, who took six podiums during two seasons with Tech3 Yamaha, requested an early termination of his KTM contract after failing to adapt to the RC16.

Initially released only from the second year, KTM then replaced Zarco with test rider Mika Kallio from Aragon, but made clear they would not stand in the Frenchman's way if he found an alternative seat this season.

The #5 has been hotly linked with a Yamaha test-riding role for 2020, but is thought to be waiting to see the outcome of the Lorenzo situation.

Zarco will race Nakagami's 2018-spec bike. LCR team-mate Cal Crutchlow (like world champion Marc Marquez and Lorenzo) uses the more powerful, but also more physical, 2019 machine.

Nakagami's last MotoGP appearance of the year will be at this weekend's home round at Motegi, after which he will head for surgery and prepare for 2020, when he will remain with LCR.

 

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