Pramac’s Johann Zarco had a steady start to the San Marino GP before topping the times in Friday’s Ducati-dominated wet afternoon practice.
Sitting 11th in the morning’s opening action, the Frenchman’s 1’33.143 lap around the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli was just four-tenths from Maverick Vinales fastest time. One that would go unchallenged due to the torrential rain hitting at the end of FP1 and again across the afternoon.
Seemingly unfazed by the dramatic change in conditions, Zarco repeatedly challenged at the top of the times during the sodden FP2. Setting a 1’42.097 on his final lap to sit half a second clear of the factory Ducatis of Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller, his closest rivals by the close of play.
“A good day!” Zarco exclaimed from the Italian paddock. “This morning, I started well the practice. It was important to get training with the Panigale here after Silverstone, because it's a very technical track and immediately I got good references. We were everyone super close but I was happy to be also in the game, so that was important.
“A bit of pain on the arm on the dry,” he admitted, referencing the arm pump issue that is sending him for surgery after the Austin Grand Prix next month. "It's logic, because it's a small track and also a track where there are more right turns.
"In the afternoon the rain was great also because I got a much better feeling. Was good to have a great feeling and to be always on the top position and in this kind of condition the arm is not suffering at all because you are not doing the same effort on the bike.
“I'm happy, is good to lead a practice again, because it reminds you also why you are here, and that's quite important. So, I got a good day and I'm happy for it.
"There are maybe some tracks where the bike will not help a lot, this road bike,” he elaborated on the reasons behind utilising track time on the Ducati Panigale two weeks ago. “Maybe Barcelona, that is a very big track, so you cannot use too much the bike but here in Misano, the track is smaller and there are tight corners. The way Bagnaia is using the Panigale, I could see also good things and I think you get used to the track because the track is smaller but, even small you can push so much. The brain has to get used, and immediately I felt that I'm used to it, and I think I save at least 20 minutes of the practice. It was good because we got some rain so I could immediately go at the correct pace.”
The track day practice and the local nature of the Misano Circuit to the Bologna factory are two reasons the Frenchman believes underpin’s the Italian marque’s dominance on day one.
“This opportunity to ride with the Panigale and go also quite fast with the Panigale and then I think Ducati did many tests here, so the base of the bike is always at the very high level, so, also that's the reason why we can quickly adapt and be fast,” he concluded.