Johann Zarco sealed a successful day for Pramac Racing by joining teammate Jorge Martin on the IndonesianGP front row.
While the Frenchman suffered an early crash as FP4 fired up at the Mandalika International Street Circuit on Saturday, a red flag for Alex Rins’ flaming Suzuki gave Zarco breathing space to regroup before setting out for a dominant run.
The Pramac rider claimed third in the final practice before repeating the achievement in qualifying, just three-tenths separating him from countryman and pole-sitter Fabio Quartararo for the first race on the archipelago in 25 years.
“It started already on Friday,” Zarco said of his promising weekend in Indonesia. “I get the good lap in FP2 and no stress in FP3 was useful. Then, during the afternoon with this crash in FP4, that it seems I touch a bit of oil from Rins because the area where I was with the bike, I couldn't have crashed normally. When I came back to the pitbox was good to have the red flag to breathe and keep calm. Then in the end FP4 was a good session because I could try out the tyres. For me it worked quite well.
“Qualifying, after the first tyre, I saw that the ’31 will be hard to do and so for the second tyre I tried to follow some good one but I was not the only one to think like this. But the last lap Bastianini was in front, I really tried to do my best and to get this ’31.3, make me pretty happy.”
Zarco’s front running pace across the weekend comes after a rollercoaster visit to Qatar for the start of the season which saw the majority of Desmosedici GP22’s fall short of their expected potential.
“We keep working on the ’22 bike and it's true that for the start we were struggling a bit in Qatar,” he admitted on his season opening performance. “The test I did here was much better so we will see, tomorrow will be open on how it's going. I think the third position, even for the line, for the track is quite a good position to start and have a chance to do really very good start. In general the base setup that we prepared during the test for me was really useful to start well the weekend.
“I was expecting to struggle more here compared to the others,” he continued. "Because I was saying that we will not have the advantage of the engine. But the rear tyre with the other casing maybe disturb us less than the other constructors. So maybe that's for this reason that we are getting better. Even Pecco [Bagnaia] did from the Q1, then he didn't have his good lap in the Q2 but for sure we were quite fast. It's difficult to say, maybe the new asphalt is giving a good grip, then you can use well the bike. Maybe the reason is this rear tyre is making lose less to the Ducati than the others.
“We can feel the differences as they are saying, that it seems there is less performance and less grip,” Zarco said on Michelin’s offering for the weekend. “But when I could compare myself with the others, it seems that I was losing less performance than them compared to the test. So I try to keep that feeling and always stay on the front. So for me, for the race, to have maybe less performance, but better constancy can be good.
"I don't feel too much the drop. I don't feel more than during the test. So we will have to see tomorrow because we didn't have any opportunity to really do 27 laps, as usual. We never do the race distance before the race. So we will see. But I think what Michelin choose was really always to try to keep some safety, to don't lose pieces on the tyre.”
While Michelin provided a tougher casing for the rear tyres, the Circuit itself had a revamp ready for the debut race. A quarter of the layout being resurfaced since the MotoGP riders’ preseason visit just five weeks ago.
“This new asphalt from the last corner to turn five, this one is quite good,” Zarco confirmed. “It's true that there are two patches that cannot get dry quickly and you have to keep a margin. In turn two it's possible to keep a margin but in turn five not. I think it was in Q2 Franco [Morbidelli] lose the front here and when you see the bike in the gravel was totally nothing. So was not nice to see. So here it's very tricky but I think they did it well because the grip feeling is quite good and compared to the test, we receive much less things on the body, on the visor, on the bike. Even on the old asphalt, it seems more clean than last time. But I think in race, with many riders, will be anyway still very tricky and very hard for being in the group.
“If we can have this, staying as three in front without getting disturbed by the others, will be the best race we can have. Because I think one or two riders is okay, more will be very hard. Let's see the pace, if it's very warm and depend the choice of the tyres, if someone can get the advantage and go in front I think it will be in the best position.”