Johann Zarco believes he must put the LCR Honda into the top seven to prove that he can still compete at the front of MotoGP.

The Frenchman, aiming to open doors for the future during three stand-in rides in place of Takaaki Nakagami, finished 13th on his LCR debut at Phillip Island last Sunday, despite bad weather interrupting practice.

"Australia has been an important weekend. I did not crash, and that's an important point. I did not do an amazing thing on the Honda yet, but I was not ridiculous," Zarco said at Sepang on Thursday.

"And clearly, to have better pace and a better race on Sunday in Malaysia, I have to start better on Friday. Here, we should have normally better weather conditions, just the chance of rain that will disturb us and I know the bike more, so I can immediately start on a better pace."

The former KTM rider feels he can gain time by pushing harder on the way into corners, the 2018-spec Honda giving him 'huge confidence' to 'go more and more'.

"When I get used to this, I will have a smile in the helmet," Zarco said. "I think I will feel good and I will go fast. Sometimes I feel it, sometimes not, so this must become almost automatic and from that point I think I will be immediately in the top 10 or the top 7."

But by making such targets, is Zarco not putting himself under unnecessary pressure?

"It's not pressure. It's just the reality of if you do a good job, if you manage everything well, you must be there. It's not pressure, it's just being honest with myself, that's all.

"I must be in the top seven at least to show again that I'm a race guy and that I can be with the top guys."

Joining LCR also means the chance to look at reigning six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez's data. What had Zarco seen?

"Everything goes quick during a weekend. I can see a few things, but yes, it's interesting. And I try to learn from it. But I will not say what I can see, because I will keep it for myself and try to work on it," he replied.

Pressed further he added that he wasn't 'surprised' by what he saw: "Marc is controlling everything, also because he has this natural control, and he is always giving the maximum. That's why he's the best for so many years.

"And this is what I try to learn from him. I need the confidence to come back, because now I've lost some feeling that I feel I can get back, but I don't know how quickly."

Nonetheless, Phillip Island had been a confidence boost.

"I feel there is a margin to improve, and now I will go in this margin and use it at the maximum."

Zarco narrowly lost out to former team-mate Pol Espargaro for twelfth place in Australia and turning the tables this weekend is another of his targets.

"Yeah, that is also one target, but if I'm in the top seven and Pol is fifth, I think I will be happy for me and for him too. Let's see. I have to be more in the front."

Nakagami, who underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday, has a best finish of fifth this season.



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