From surgery to front row to pit lane for bittersweet Zarco

Johann Zarco caps off an eventful seven days by surprising himself by qualifying on the front row even if he will need to start the Styrian MotoGP from the pit-lane
From surgery to front row to pit lane for bittersweet Zarco

Few MotoGP riders have probably ever had to endure face up to so many challenges between back-to-back races, much less go on to qualify on the front row with barely any mileage under your belt, but it’s been that kind of week for Johann Zarco.

The Frenchman found himself the focus of some unwelcome headlines just under a week ago when the finger of blame was trained squarely at him for the collision with Franco Morbidelli that came close to have serious consequences for Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales too.

More than that though, it transpired Zarco had picked up an injury with a fracture in his scaphoid located in the wrist, necessitating a surgery on the Wednesday.

Returning to the Red Bull Ring for Thursday to meet with Stewards after a hearing was called to discuss Sunday’s accident, Zarco was duly found responsible and penalised with a pit-lane get away at the start of this weekend’s race.

Already skipping Friday’s action and only taking to the track in FP3 ahead of qualifying, few people – least of all him – expected not only progress into Q2 via Q1 but to go all the way to the front row, his second such achievement in three races.

A spellbinding performance that is somewhat spoiled by the poorly-timed penalty, Zarco admits he was surprised to be top Ducati around the manufacturer’s best circuit.

“I don’t have many words for today because I have been so surprised and so happy. Just to get out of the pit lane and feel the wrist, the pain is under control and I can do good laps of quality and I can be fast, maybe not for many laps but on Saturday we just need to be fast on one lap. I am happy I managed it well, the feeling was really interested.

“We missed a Q run in FP3 because I knew I’d be starting from the pit lane, then in the afternoon you have in mind to do the best on bike and the best was to get into Q2 and then third position. I think also, we have a little but of pain, but we are faster than last weekend and we can work learn more things on the bike.”

Regardless of where he starts, however, Zarco admits he is unsure whether he has the fitness to go the length on Sunday anyway. Though the wrist is only giving minor pain, Zarco hasn’t completed a long run with it and says he may well be forced to retire himself anyway.

“The rain [he replied when asked if he’d prefer it] would be useful for me because 28 laps at that pace… I don’t have it, so it it’s raining it will be easier and I can do 28 laps easier and get to the end of the race. Tomorrow isn’t about getting a good result, it’s about getting to the end of the race.

“Clearly if I can I will try to get some points, but if it is raining the body is forcing less and I have less chance to go to the edge.”

Despite the negative focus of last weekend, Zarco has shone for the privateer Avintia Ducati team in 2020 with Ducati bosses on record as saying it will re-sign him for next season. However, while Zarco says his eye is no a factory seat, he doesn’t expect one.

“It is good news [to know] that I can continue with Ducati next year but they still need time to decide where to put the riders. Clearly the factory bike is a dream bike and with my experience – and mistakes – from being in a factory team, I think I would be ready to go on the factory bike but I need more podiums and fight for them more consistently to deserve the factory bike.

“Ducati is losing Dovizioso and though they can have it with Jack, if they need two riders that can fight for podiums that will be the main thing.

“So the factory bike is the dream but staying with Ducati is the main thing. “

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