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Exclusive: Zarco talks KTM, Yamaha and MotoGP mind-games

We caught up with Johann Zarco at the EICMA show last week for a chat about all things MotoGP, including his expectations for next season​​

2016 Moto2 champion, Johann Zarco burst onto the MotoGP scene in 2017, with a first race at Qatar that made the entire paddock sit up and take notice. Riding the Tech3 Yamaha, Zarco stunned the field by hitting the front in the early stages and gapping the chasing pack. The Frenchman looked set for what would have been an amazing maiden win but he crashed out on lap seven. Regardless of the result, Zarco had left a lasting impression on the paddock, the other riders and the fans watching at home.

Johann’s helmet manufacturer, Shark, invited us along to their stand during the recent EICMA show in Italy for a chat about his hopes for next season and what he expects from the KTM he’ll be riding.

Visordown: Hi Johann, are you well and enjoying the show?

Johann Zarco: It’s okay, I can’t really go out otherwise too many people are asking for a picture and you can’t get anywhere!

Visordown: With Yamaha in the last couple of seasons you’ve tasted a fair bit of success, podiums and nearly winning a few races, next season with the KTM, are you expecting to be at this level straight away or are you ready to work for the results?

JZ: With the KTM of course the target is to win but a victory, I don’t know. I need to test the bike and feel it to see what is the potential to really have a clear target but the final target is to fight for the world title in MotoGP. So, I will see how it is going in Valencia and Jerez during November tests. It’s true with the Yamaha, I was able to fight for podium, almost victory but I was also sometimes struggling a little bit down in the classification. I think this year I learn a lot during my second year in MotoGP, like even during a bad result doesn’t mean I’m not able to be fast so this is a way to stay positive in the mind, in case of difficult moment with KTM, I’m ready to see the situation from a bit more higher.

Visordown: So, the experience you’ve gained this season has helped you but, if the Zarco of today could go back and to the first race of 2017 and give yourself some advice, what would that be?

JZ: I never want to go back to think to do it again, because I want to live the present so, what I did two years ago almost, Qatar 2017, [Johann lead for much of the race before crashing out on lap seven] was a great way to catch some confidence – except that I crashed! I don’t want to say, for-sure if I can win the race it’s better, I just want to learn for the next Qatar and live the present. If it’s good things or bad things, it’s done so I wouldn’t say anything.

Visordown: The KTM you’re riding next year, is it the same bike [Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith have used], is there a big upgrade coming over the winter or do you expect it to be at the same level as this year but with some minor changes or is it a completely new bike?

JZ: I heard it’s a new bike, not the bike Pol and Bradley are riding this year. It’s a new one they are already working on but are not able to race with because of the homologation rules, but I have heard that it is more competitive than the bike they are using [this season] so I need to take the most competitive one and push that bike to the limit to win.

Visordown: And are they keeping the trellis frame, is that remaining?

JZ: For sure it’s the KTM signature so they have now enough technology to see if this kind of frame is working well and can work well to fight against the best bike in the championship. So yes, they keep that kind of technology in their mind and they work with it and I can only cross finger and believe they are not in the wrong direction, it’s different but it can work.

Visordown: When you are at the track, you’re quite well known for being fearless in you overtaking manoeuvres, similar to Marquez. You go for gaps that some other people wouldn’t go for. Is that an advantage when you’re on track because it could make your opponents nervous that you are behind them, not knowing if you’re going to overtake them?

JZ: I want to say yes, it can be an advantage. Now all we do on track is well controlled by race direction, so you cannot do some much aggressive thing or have a big contact because you can get a penalty. But when I can go, I have to go and it’s better that the opponents are wondering that Zarco is aggressive than the opposite that Zarco is too sweet so we can hit him whenever we want to. It’s better to have the first option like this. If you can make them think a little bit before the overtake you already won the battle.

Visordown: If there is one racing circuit that isn’t on the MotoGP calendar that you could add for next season, what track would that be?

JZ: Nice question… the first one would be the one in Belgium, Spa. The layout is amazing. Then, I know it is a small track but, I have never been to Laguna Seca I know it’s a good place to race, but it is small so for me Spa is the one.

Visordown: I totally agree with you on that one! Johann, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

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