Johann Zarco says his shock pole position for the 2020 Czech Republic MotoGP has gone a long way to proving to himself that he can still mix with the best riders in the sport after a lean year that almost forced him out of the series.
While the Frenchman is no stranger to the front of the field after scoring four pole positions and six podiums during a two-year stint with Tech 3 Yamaha, his career was almost sent into a tailspin by an erroneous move to KTM, followed by a stand-in switch to LCR Honda that didn’t yield the factory ride he expected.
In the end Zarco accepted an offer from Avintia Racing to join for 2020, albeit on a year-old Ducati GP19, but has shown flashes of encouraging form with the Italian firm’s second-string satellite outfit.
That came to a head in qualifying in Brno as Zarco pumped in a stunning fastest lap that earns him a return to the front, but also delivers the relative minnow Spanish outfit a maiden pole position in the top-flight.
The against the odds result is a huge confidence boost for Zarco following a tempestuous 18 months, one that he says demonstrates to himself he can compete at the highest levels.
“It was really emotional this pole position. I saw the lap time and I was surprised because there was a huge difference compared with the lap time with the first tyre, so I thought that will be a good time to have a good position.
“When I crossed the line, I saw P1 from my team and they were happy but I was thinking other guys would improve.
“The taste of pole position is so good and the taste is good today because it is many races I wasn’t in pole position. I have been struggling and wondering if I can be on top, even if I have big support from people that are telling me I can do it.
“But when you see all the guys are so fast that sometimes you’re doing maximum and you’re still not there, so you wonder if you are still on the pace and today I was.”
Looking ahead to the race, Zarco is more realistic about his chances, saying he wants to get away with the leaders through the opening laps and hope he can keep up for a potential top five finish.
“Race pace is better than the previous races but not the one for winning, I think. The conditions will be a little bit different compared with today. I need wait and see but staying as long as possible to fight for the podium can be a great option and stay strong. Being in the top five will be a huge result.
“Things are coming back but we need to accept every step, today was a bigger step than we planned, but tomorrow beginning of the race staying with the top guys will be a huge help to be fast and then the tyre will drop and we will see how to manage it.”