Johann Zarco laughed off the suggestion he took the ‘best long-lap penalty ever’ as he refused to dwell on his inopportune forfeit to successfully turn his Czech MotoGP pole position into a well deserved podium.

Grabbing a historic pole for the Avintia Racing team on Saturday, though Zarco slipped back off the start line with a bad getaway, he kept himself in the lead mix and was one of the few to be ascending up the order at the midway stage of the race just as rear tyres were fading.

Up to third position after surviving a brush with Pol Espargaro on lap seven – one that sent the KTM rider into the gravel trap – Zarco was making headway towards second when he was slapped with a controversial long-lap penalty for the aforementioned contact.

Undeterred, Zarco took it with aplomb – knee down on the dusty edge of the circuit – to retain his position, before rebuffing the late attentions of Alex Rins to complete a hugely lucrative weekend for both himself and the team.

Despite the contentious nature of the penalty to some, Zarco says he was expecting something to come his way.

“The target was to get a good start from pole and then lead the race, to use the new tyre and get away a bit but at the start I lost positions and when Franco was pulling away I was thinking this pace I could get it, but fighting with the others I was not able to.

“It was a bit complicated because after a few laps I didn’t feel as disadvantaged as I was at the beginning of the race but after some more laps, when Pol overtook me he made some mistakes, coming strong into the corner and then going wide and missing the apex. So from that moment I was feeling good again and I could go in with good corner speed.

“When we had the contact, I wasn’t sure if he crashed but I couldn’t hear him anymore. I was a bit worried because I know the rules are quite strict, but no penalty was coming so I thought I was OK. When I caught Fabio and passed him, then I got the long lap penalty, which was a shame because from third place I thought I’d lose position and it’d be hard to fight for the podium. When no-one overtook me, I got a second wind and it worked well.

“I saw the penalty and I thought I’d do it immediately so I don’t lose concentration and I was surprised to hear I did it amazingly. For me I was expecting guys coming in and I lose two or three positions, but no-one came. It’s the first time I did the whole corner so wide!”

Though Ducati gains good points from Zarco’s efforts, the pole and podium shines some rather unforgiving light on the manufacturer as a whole, the Frenchman having been comfortably the quickest of the Desmoscedici riders on last year’s GP19.

With the other GP20s finishing no higher than tenth around a circuit Ducati normally excels at, Zarco – who is chasing more factory support for 2021 – admits the timing of the result is good for him personally, if not necessarily the manufacturer.

“I’ve been fast on the Ducati and the other guys struggled, but I don’t know. Since Friday on the new tyre I was fast at least on one lap, which was a weak point in Jerez. Today, we knew it’d be tough which is why I wanted to go fast at the beginning but it was useful to start from pole even if I missed the start, staying with this group helps to move you away.

“I don’t want to think too much about why I have been better than the other Ducati riders this weekend but it’s pretty positive for me to get points in the Ducati mine.

“All the support they are giving the team, it’s now a very good satellite team and we are showing it. I hope to deserve something good, so this result came at a good moment because it’s earlier than we could expect, it’s always good to take and I just need to confirm it again.”

 

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