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Johann Zarco expected to land Repsol Honda seat after Lorenzo exit

Johann Zarco thought the stars were aligning for him to get Jorge Lorenzo's 2020 MotoGP Repsol Honda ride following his retirement call...

Johann Zarco - LCR Honda

Johann Zarco has revealed he joined LCR Honda for the final three rounds of the 2019 MotoGP season with the express intention of being promoted to the Repsol Honda ride in place of Jorge Lorenzo, only to be snubbed in favour of Alex Marquez.

The Frenchman was a free agent prior to his switch to the satellite Honda team after having his contract with KTM prematurely terminated, with Zarco called up to replace the injured Takaaki Nakagami on a year-old Honda RC213V.

Coming at a time when Lorenzo was struggling on the factory Repsol Honda relative to Marc Marquez, Zarco accepted the LCR Honda chance after recognising there may be an opening with the factory team should the three-time World Champion decide to leave early.

His prediction proved accurate with Lorenzo calling it quits at the 2019 finale in Valencia, opening the door for Zarco theoretically take his place.

However, his hopes would ultimately be dashed, Zarco admitting ‘the winds changed’ ahead of a ‘weird Sunday’ as it became clear Repsol Honda would instead sign Alex Marquez alongside his brother for the 2020 MotoGP season.

“The opportunity came along for me to ride the Honda. I could see that Jorge was no longer in sync, so even though I didn’t know what his future was going to be, I set out to play this card,” he said. “Of course, when he called that press conference in Valencia to announce that he was retiring, I thought it looked pretty good.

“But during the weekend, the winds changed and a lot of things were turned upside down. Besides, it was a weird Sunday, because I already knew that I had very little chance.”

Johann Zarco’s attitude costs him prime 2020 MotoGP ride?

Though Honda has swerved talk over why Zarco wasn’t considered for the 2020 Repsol ride, instead choosing to focus on the positives of signing a Moto2 World Champion, other riders in the paddock have likely answered that question for them.

The Frenchman’s time at KTM was dogged by constant criticisms of the bike, which in turn resulted in the Austrian firm levelling its own critique of his riding performance and attitude right back at him.

Aleix Espargaro (brother to Zarco’s former KTM team-mate Pol) even went as far to say he doesn’t deserve such a good ride on the back of his 'unprofessional' work ethic.

It hasn’t helped that Zarco was then openly negative about Avintia Ducati prior to him deciding to join the squad, saying he’d rather race in Moto2 than join an uncompetitive team. He then appeared to distance himself from the Spanish outfit when it was confirmed he was in fact joining for 2020, saying he regards himself as a Ducati rider only.

Indeed, Zarco says it was Ducati that convinced him to join Avintia on the back of a new ‘satellite’ status, which essentially moves it up to the same status Pramac Racing was a few years ago*.

“Ducati called me on Monday [after the race] saying ‘we need to talk’. We had several meetings during which they explained to me what they would make available to me and they were able to convince me. It gave me a boost of confidence!

“They told me that the Avintia team was going to completely change their status. And then, for my part, I was going to have the opportunity to try to compete once more for the Top 7 or 10, to stay with Ducati then deserve and even better bike in the near future, with podiums perhaps being the icing on the cake.”

*Pramac Racing will run two current 2020 spec Ducati’s next season for the first time, essentially becoming an extension of the factory Ducati Corse outfit.

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