Finishing 13th in his first MotoGP™ race on a Honda may not have met his own expectations, but Johann Zarco can take positives from his performance at the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2019 at Phillip Island.
The Frenchman, who is filling in for Takaaki Nakagami in the final three races of the season while he undergoes surgery for a shoulder injury, said prior to the race that he was looking for a top 10 finish as a “minimum” result from the weekend.
While he fell short of that, the interrupted build-up to the race because of wet and windy weather was no help to Zarco.
“The race was great,” he said. “It was a good beginning because of the soft rear, which was the only tyre I used all weekend. With the hard, there was no feeling and it would be a shame to have no feeling.
“I had a correct start and a good fight with many riders. The first race with Honda and the rider I have to fight with is Pol Espargaro, and we had a good fight, many times we were overtaking.
“At the end of the race, I was on the limit and struggling with the rear tyre. I was trying to beat Pol but he did a good last lap, and a good last corner. I finished 13th, it’s OK.”
The man who knows the 2018 Honda RCV213 he rode better than anyone else, Marc Marquez, is keeping an open mind on how he performed.
“Difficult to say,” said Marquez. “I could say ‘acceptable’ but I do not want to say one word. You saw this weekend - it was windy, rain and then pole positions [on Sunday], it is impossible to say.
“We will see in Malaysia. You need time, and sometimes, when you get time, it is not the best conditions. But we saw something, maybe in FP4. Maybe we see something in Malaysia.”
Zarco, a two-time Moto2™ World Champion, appears to have few options in the MotoGP™ paddock for 2020, though he could return to Moto2™ for a season. One thing working in his favour is that a number of riders’ deal expire at the end of next season, including that of Jorge Lorenzo.
The five-time World Champion’s struggles continued at Phillip Island, where he finished 16th and last, nearly 40 seconds behind Zarco, who had never ridden a Honda MotoGP™ racer until Friday’s opening practice session.