Johann Zarco says it was ‘attack or be attacked’ on the final lap of the Australian MotoGP after coming out on top of a breathless scrap within sight of the flag to clinch a long awaited maiden premier class victory.
The Frenchman capitalised on Pramac Racing team-mate Jorge Martin’s catastrophic slump in pace during the closing stages of the Phillip Island race to pounce on the final revolution and snatch a famous victory, his first in 120 MotoGP starts.
Coming seven years after bursting into MotoGP as a double Moto2 World Champion, though Zarco has since comfortably established himself among the series’ elite racers, he had remained one of the few to have tasted the winners’ champagne despite tallying 19 podiums in that time.
“It feels good,” he said, according to Crash.net. “Sometimes you always push and try to catch [this feeling] but sometimes there are other riders that have the pace and have this feeling.
“As long as you don’t catch it, it seems like you cannot win. Like Pecco did three years ago, he has been fighting with the Ducati and won so many races.
“Jorge… it is his time now. Also, in qualifying he is doing amazing and can control the races, but this one was a special one
Fittingly, his route to victory would echo that of his slow-burning career too, Zarco spending much of the race tucked up behind Pecco Bagnaia in fifth place, preferring to bide his time before pushing for the podium.
With six laps remaining, Zarco made his first move, dismissing Bagnaia before picking off both Fabio di Giannantonio and Brad Binder with three and two laps remaining.
Placing him second coming into the final lap, Zarco would find himself rapidly gaining on Pramac team-mate Jorge Martin up ahead, the Spaniard’s plus-three second lead having been wiped out by his rapidly fading rear tyre.
While Zarco considered protecting his counterpart to assist his title hopes, the speed differential coupled with looming rivals forced him to think again.
“I had to be behind Jorge on the last two laps or last lap because I saved my rear tyre and wanted to catch this acceleration on the last lap that I’m used to having.
“I could not do it earlier in the race because I would have used too much tyre. I did the manoeuvre at the right moment.
“I understand with five laps to go that it was possible to catch Jorge. I thought I could also overtake him at turn six, like I did with Marc.
“But if I had waited at turn four I could have been attacked by another rider. It was important to attack and not be attacked.”
Zarco’s long-awaited maiden win comes towards the end of his four-year tenure with Ducati, which started in 2020 with Avintia Racing before progressing to Pramac Racing for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 MotoGP seasons.
He will depart Ducati at the end of the season in favour of a move to Honda to join its satellite LCR effort.