Johann Zarco's three-race MotoGP deal with LCR Honda signals that the Frenchman won't be joining Yamaha as a test rider next season.

That's the opinion of factory star Valentino Rossi, who admitted it was a shame that the six-time Tech3 podium finisher has slipped away.

After a mid-season split from KTM, Zarco had his sights set on securing a MotoGP test and wild-card role, feeling it offered the best chance of a race seat for 2021. His previous success at Yamaha made him the obvious choice to help with development of the M1 and a deal looked close.

However Zarco has now signed to replace Takaaki Nakagami, while the Japanese recovers from shoulder surgery following his home round at Motegi this weekend.

Although all parties insist it is simply a three-race agreement, if Zarco can impress on the RCV many feel he could be set for some kind of role at Honda next season, ranging from testing to replacing Jorge Lorenzo.

Likewise, Honda is unlikely to have agreed to Zarco's LCR chance if the Frenchman was planning to head straight over to testing duties at Yamaha.

"It's a shame," said Rossi at Motegi on Thursday. "It’s no secret that Yamaha was looking at Zarco for test rider and he would have been important for us.

"Now he's close to Honda and we need to see what he decides to do for 2020, but it looks to me like we will have to find another fast test rider. It will be difficult to find someone like Johann."

Jonas Folger is now tipped to remain as Yamaha's European test rider, having previously considered stepping down to seek a return to racing in Moto2. Folger has not been given any MotoGP wild-cards by Yamaha this year, which would have been vital for Zarco.

Turning to his own chances at Motegi this weekend, Rossi said he will try and improve the rear grip issues he has been suffering by making changes to the balance of the bike and his riding style.

 

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