After progressing straight into Q2 and qualifying on the third row of the grid for the Malaysian MotoGP, Johann Zarco has confirmed he’s quickly learning to improve for LCR Honda.

At the second race of his three-round stand in opportunity at the satellite Honda squad, filling in for Takaaki Nakagami who has undergone shoulder surgery, Zarco broke into the top 10 during practice to grab an automatic Q2 spot before converting it to ninth place in qualifying at Sepang.

Having made impressive progress adapting to the 2018-specification RC213V, Zarco says his gains in Malaysia are coming from a stronger front-end feeling while using the superior top speed from the Honda engine on Sepang’s two long straights.

“It’s always things coming together. I had to learn the bike in Australia, now I feel the bike much better,” Zarco said. “I can use it better and ride it maybe not the best way, because I feel I can go even faster with the bike, but it’s not coming easy. Plus this track where in the past I got good results, it looked like my natural feeling here is going well.

“My front feeling is improving, and this helps me to choose the line, or to have more control of the bike. Then it’s still some work to have a better control of the rear grip when you go out of the corner. You can sometimes spin, sometimes you can go fast. So here it’s very sensitive and when things come automatically, I think I will go faster and more constant.”

The French rider feels he can also exploit his Honda engine to fight in the race despite conceding concerns over his race pace.

“I want to use my engine. I feel the engine is strong, and so I want to improve a little bit my brake point to take this advantage of the engine plus the brake,” he said. “Then see how I can manage the rest, because about race pace, at the moment I’m not so fast, and if we let the Yamaha guys or even the Suzuki too fast in Sector 3, then we will struggle to catch them.”

Sepang holds fond memories for Zarco having finished on the podium in his first two years in MotoGP with Tech3, while he was promoted to pole position in 2018 after Marc Marquez was given a six-place grid penalty after qualifying.

Zarco is also a two-time race winner in Malaysia during his pair of Moto2 title-winning campaigns in 2015 and 2016.

The 29-year-old’s future still remains uncertain after the conclusion to his three-race LCR Honda deal as he targets a return to Moto2 in 2020 having preferred to continue racing rather than opting for a test rider role which was offered to him from Yamaha.