Johann Zarco was the Ducati to watch this evening after beating factory rider, and pole-sitter, Pecco Bagnaia to second position at MotoGP Qatar I.
A solid start saw the Frenchman advance from sixth on the grid to sit in the middle of a Ducati powerhouse at the front of Sunday’s inaugural race before advancing to better first one, then both factory riders as the 22-lap contest unfolded.
A last lap battle saw the Pramac rider tussle with Joan Mir until the Suzuki ran wide at the final corner, allowing the strength of the Desmosedici engine to overpower the Japanese marque to claim second at the flag. His fellow Bologna rider, Bagnaia used the combination of the Frenchman’s slipstream and the Ducati power to ultimately deny last year’s champion a position on the first podium of the year.
The result gives Zarco his first taste of the Losail rostrum since joining the paddock in 2009.
“Pretty good weekend,” Zarco declared from parc fermé. “I’m pretty happy, it has been a good race and a long race because the end was quite difficult.
“Was nice to see a good start and gain three position from it. Then Pecco was feeling comfortable but me too so that’s why I use this opportunity and over took Jack to follow Pecco. I had to stay pretty focused but I think has been a key point during the race to stay behind him and be fast and in the same time try to control the tyres until Vinales came, and then I think he rise up the pace.
“When Viñales overtook Pecco, I felt I can still have some speed to follow him and I knew that he was going to be pretty fast in the back part of the track. So I immediately overtook Pecco and then tried to catch Viñales, but I was fighting a lot. At the end when Mir caught me back, really I try to keep some breath to push again and thanks to my engine I could save the second position so just fantastic. We’re just taking a moment right now and I will analyse a little bit more later.
“First race here in Qatar, second, it’s my first podium in Qatar overall in any category, I’m so happy and I want to enjoy.
“With the Ducati we have a huge advantage in the straight but Vinales was pretty strong. He was able to gain many metres in the exit of the corner. He did a great job because he has been pretty constant and he explained me also that he had to fight with Fabio, so it has been a tough race for him but then with the consistency, it equaled the win.”
When reflecting on the final lap, the Frenchman explained “I didn’t know who was there, who was not there. I knew only Joan was there but when he overtook me I didn’t know Pecco was so close. The last brake is pretty difficult to expect no one will come in, and fortunately Mir went a bit wide and then thanks to the acceleration. I could get the podium.
Ducati proved its dominant position throughout the opening race weekend, with Zarco clinching the top-speed record while Pecco Bagnaia scored the pole, so does he believe he will be fighting in this position, every weekend this year?
“That will be the ideal target and ideal season” agreed the Pramac rider. “I think the team and bike has the potential. So as long as I can really get the right energy and feel good on the bike I have the chance to get these kind of races every time. I don’t want to think about it too much because then I can lose myself. I’m already pretty confident with the team, with the bike, because I know when you feel good on it, it’s unstoppable, we can go so fast. So I want to touch this feeling, almost all the time, to enjoy all of this season.”