MotoGP

Johann Zarco joins LCR Honda for final rounds of 2019 MotoGP season

Johann Zarco returns to the 2019 MotoGP World Championship grid for the final three rounds at LCR Honda, replacing the injured Takaaki Nakagami

LCR Honda has officially confirmed Johann Zarco will join the team for the final three rounds of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship in place of the injured Takaaki Nakagami.

The Frenchman was tipped to land the seat vacated by Nakagami after the Japanese rider confirmed he will skip the final three rounds of the season to undergo surgery on a shoulder injury he suffered in an accident at Assen earlier in the year.

Zarco – a three-time pole sitter and six-time MotoGP podium winner - has been out of action since Misano when he formally severed ties with the Red Bull KTM Factory team in the wake of disappointing results since joining the manufacturer at the start of the 2019 season. 

He had originally planned to leave at the end of the season – midway through a two-year deal – but was axed before the season was out as KTM turned its attentions to development of the 2020 MotoGP KTM RC16.

Regardless, Zarco was still contracted by KTM to the end of the season and would have required permission to join LCR Honda, which it has duly granted.

“What an opportunity to have the last few races of the season on the LCR Honda IDEMITSU bike. I’m really thankful to have this chance, and I will do my best to pick up some good results and to enjoy the time, because these could be the last three races I can do for a while. I would like to thank KTM for releasing me so that I can do these races on another bike. 

“Let’s see what I can do. First of all I know that I will enjoy the Phillip Island track, it’s a fast circuit and I think the feeling could be good. We’ll cross our fingers that it can be, and we will see what is possible. The target is to ride at a good pace, and rediscover some of the good feeling I’ve had before.”

Nakagami will compete in his home Japanese MotoGP at Motegi this weekend before going on hiatus.

Can Johann Zarco show MotoGP what it’s missing?

This is a big chance for Zarco to make himself look more desirable to teams for the future, even if it won’t necessarily change his immediate plans.

Nakagami may be out through injury but LCR Honda also confirmed he will definitely continue with the team next season, closing the penultimate available door on the 2020 MotoGP – even if few considered it open to him anyway – with the only spare seat left the one he vacated at KTM.

Even so, Zarco will be riding a bike that has looked competitive in the hands of Nakagami and Zarco – despite his inexperience of the 2018-specification Honda RC213V – will be keen to demonstrate at least better form he had on a KTM machine he couldn’t adapt his smooth riding style for.

Though it may be a tall order for Zarco to get entirely up to speed at Philip Island – even if he has a very strong record there aboard the Yamaha – he will definitely look to be on par with Cal Crutchlow by Valencia.

It’s hard to see where Zarco fits into the 2020 MotoGP race rider line-up, with a testing role seemingly the most plausible destination for the Frenchman, but after such a reputation harming stint at KTM, this is the perfect chance for him to remind the paddock what they might be missing.

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