He may have felt “like a rookie … restarting at [185mph]” in the morning, but Johann Zarco was buoyed by the potential of the LRC Honda after making his debut on the '18 spec RC213V at Phillip Island on Friday.

The double Moto2 world champion posted respectable times in wet and dry conditions on Australia’s southern coast, where he placed 13th and 15th in FP1 and FP2. Interestingly, he was ahead of Jorge Lorenzo in both sessions.

What seemed to please the 29-year old most was the room for improvement. He freely admitted it would be “tough to find the limit on this bike,” but feels his objective of finishing in the top ten isn’t beyond reach.

As he said, “I do not feel very well because I'm missing confidence … but even like this, I'm not so far from this top ten.”

“The rain was this morning, like, not easy to discover the bike, but it was good, because in the rain you go slower, so you have more time. And in this condition it was very cold, a little bit scary.

“I was like a rookie to restart at 300kph. It was quite OK, because being very careful, I was in the middle of the classification, so this was not bad.

“But even being scary, I was not super slow, so this was positive. In the afternoon in the dry, it was also a good condition to really try the bike and have real information, and I see that it was not easy, and I had to take some confidence step by step.

“Overall on this track which is so fast, you really need to trust the bike a lot, and I could see that compared to the others, I was not going very fast into the corners.

“Then step by step I could improve, not enough to be in the top ten, but at least because I started so far behind I could catch back some time. Even in this free practice to test the tyre, I was in a better pace.

“So it's going to be a tough weekend to find new limits and put myself back to a very high level of performance, but that's the challenge. So happy to feel this and I will really give the best to be at a better level than I have been today.

“Marc [Marquez] said it yesterday, that you need to feel it here on this track, you need to have the confidence. If not it's almost better to not try or not risk too much, because if you make a mistake, it's super fast.

“But then, from the first exit to the last one, I got a huge improvement, so it means there are things possible to do. I just need to get used to this new limit.”

Did he feel the 2018 spec Honda RC213V was less physically demanding than the KTM RC16, which he rode during the first 14 races of the year?

“Difficult to say,” he said. “I don't want to compare. What I'm happy about is that as a rider, there is a confidence that I need to find back so it's going to be the target this weekend, and if I find this confidence, automatically I will be fast.

“It depends how you ride. Me, I'm not the kind of rider to ride physical, but I think it's possible to manage it. Just with the confidence, you will save the body.

“It was a confirmation [the bike is capable of top ten finishes] because I see it. I do not feel very well because I'm missing confidence, but even like this, I'm not so far from this top ten. So it will not come immediately, it will come step by step, but the more confidence will come, the easier the work will be.”

On whether he was pleased with his overall performance, he concluded, “It was OK, it looks like I didn't leave the track. It's true I missed three GPs, but many riders sometimes miss GPs because they have injuries.

“As I said, to come back at over 300 km/h on this circuit, it's always big things, but it's what I like.”

 

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