Johann Zarco says it is a big relief to finally bag the MotoGP race win that had eluded him for seven seasons and 120 grands prix prior to his success in the Australian MotoGP.
The Frenchman scored a sensational victory at Phillip Island after emerging at the front of a spectacular final lap showdown between himself, Jorge Martin, Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio di Giannantonio and Brad Binder.
A result that has been a long time in the making, Zarco’s failure to land a victory in MotoGP since debuting in 2017 has long belied form and statistics that earmark him as one of the series’ quickest and most consistent riders.
Debuting in 2017 with the Tech 3 Yamaha team after successfully defending his Moto2 World Championship title, Zarco proved immediately competitive on the satellite M1. However, despite being tipped as the man to bring Tech 3 Racing it’s first MotoGP victory, he’d fall just short on numerous occasions.
While the move to KTM the following year proved an erroneous misstep, it did pave the way for Zarco to switch allegiance to Ducati for 2020 with Avintia Racing. Silencing critics with several giant-killing performances on a two-year old machine, it smoothed his path to Pramac Racing for 2021.
Until his success in Australia this weekend though, Zarco continued to come up just short, the frequency of which is demonstrated by him achieving an extraordinary 19 podium results before getting to stand on the top step.
Little wonder then that Zarco was revelling in the ‘release’ of having finally put those awkward questions behind him.
“All these memories that have been quite tough,” he admitted to MotoGP.com. “There have been times I thought I could not win, or there is a feeling it is too difficult to win, it would be too hard to put all together, but everything came together and means it is possible. A big feeling of release inside the body.”
“I was focused on overtaking and keeping my position. I had to avoid an attack from the guys behind so that’s why I overtook at that moment. I was not thinking about the Championship. I was focused on what I had to do for myself.”
Zarco’s win comes as he prepares for his final races as a Ducati rider before switching to Honda for the 2024 MotoGP season.
In other news, it was confirmed over the weekend that Zarco will join LCR as planned, rather than be ported into the factory Repsol Honda team as a successor for Marc Marquez.
“It’s strange a rider like him hadn’t won before…”
Zarco’s win would prove a popular one down the paddock too with the likes of team-mate Jorge Martin - who was overhauled by Zarco on the final lap amid tyre issues - and Marc Marquez offering their congratulations.
“He deserved the victory. I’m so happy for the team and for him,” Martin said, pointing out that Pramac Racing is now odds-on for a historic Teams’ title win.
“Now we are super close to the Teams' Championship. This is a good point. But for sure I want the other one. It still depends on me, but I need to be clever and not make these mistakes.
“I’m really happy for him,” added former Ducati rider Jack Miller. “He has always been strong since he arrived in MotoGP. He has been so close on so many occasions.”
Marc Marquez also offered his applause; “Johann is really a talented rider. He is a two-time Moto2 World Champion. He deserves at least one victory. It was strange that a rider like him didn’t win before, but today he achieved it.”