Johann Zarco took a magnificent pole position in qualifying for the Brno Grand Prix, a result that comes without a shadow of a doubt at the best moment for the Frenchman. Literally fished out of the water by Gigi Dall’Igna and Ducati at the end of 2019, Zarco is working hard to make the most of the chance given to him by Borgo Panigale and after a non-explosive start today’s pole position represents a firework that is capable of changing the future.
For 2021 there is a place to be assigned in the factory team, and also in Pramac it is possible to have ambitions as a factory rider. These are only ideas, but it is clear to everyone that both solutions are very tempting to Zarco who today stood out on the day when Dovizioso appeared to be under par and on the weekend when Pecco Bagnaia got injured. It will certainly not be this pole to guarantee Zarco’s contract for the future, but it is equally clear that this result can be an excellent base on which to build and Johann is aware of this.
“My goal is to have a good seat with Ducati for 2021 – said Zarco – but before that I want to do well in 2020. In the recent past it is as if I had slightly lost the habit of racing at a really high level and I am happy thanks to Ducati to be able to feel these sensations again. It will not happen all together, but every now and then we can be a surprise and I think not only in qualifying. Here I am doing a better job than Jerez from all points of view and my goal is to do a good job on the bike, improve my style and I know that by doing all this well every time, performance will come with continuity. Only then will we see where I can be in Ducati, but certainly my desire is to stay on a Ducati also because of everything they have done for me and for the team from November to today. I feel good on the Desmosedici and I think I can do a lot more in the future. I feel that Ducati believes in me too and wants to see how much I can perform in the race and maybe give me a chance on a factory bike in the future. “
You go fast while the factory riders suffer on the new Michelins. How do you explain this difference?
“At the end of November, I didn’t try the Ducati, when the old tyres were still there. I only tested it in February at Sepang, so it can be said that I discovered the Ducati with the new Michelins, I have no comparison with the previous one. This is the Ducati for me. Maybe this Michelin has made Yamaha and Suzuki take a step forward and we still have to find the right solution to make it work better. Maybe we are still missing something in race pace and on distance, but on the one lap this tyre is better for me and I can use it. I don’t know why others are suffering, especially Dovizioso who is the best Ducati rider. Perhaps my riding style helps to manage this tyre better. For me this is the Ducati and I don’t know the difference from the past “.
How did you feel when you realized you set the pole?
“It was exciting to take this pole. When I saw the lap time on the display I was surprised, especially when compared to what I had achieved with the previous tyre. I thought it could be a good benchmark to start from the front, but I didn’t concentrate because I wanted to try to squeeze the tyre to the maximum even for a second lap, also knowing that here with the soft tyres it is difficult to improve on the second lap because the tyres give way soon. When I crossed the line for the second time, I saw the guys from the team who they put up the P1 sign and cheered. I started to smile, but as I continued on the lap, I thought someone would certainly improve that time, so I didn’t completely let myself go. When I arrived at the parc fermé I saw that I really had to go to the place for pole and I felt happy. I’m improving every time I get on this bike. The Ducati has a huge potential, but it’s hard to do everything perfectly on every lap. In my opinion, in my learning curve on this bike, maybe I am a bit ahead of what I expected. “
Is winning possible, or was it just one single incredible lap?
“My pace is better than what I had at Jerez, but I still don’t have the one to win. We’ll see the conditions tomorrow but starting from the front will undoubtedly give me a small advantage and I’d like to be the surprise in the race as well. I’ll try to stay in the fight for the podium, or at least in the top five. As I said, I’m learning about the Ducati and getting in the top five would be an incredible result. The results are starting to arrive, but I have to accept that it takes the right steps. Today we took an unexpected step forward, so now we’ll see what we can do in the race. When the tyres start to drop, I’ll have to be good at managing them well. “
Does getting a pole as a satellite rider have a different flavour than doing it as a factory rider in your opinion?
“The taste of pole is always great! Today even better, because I haven’t been on pole for a long time and I thought back to all the times I was far away and suffered from not being fast enough. Many people told me not to worry, because in their opinion I would always have been fast. But when you see so many riders in front of you it’s hard, so being able to be in front today gave me feelings that were far away. “
Do you feel different than the Johann Zarco of 2017 and 2018?
“There are many differences between the 2018 and today’s Zarco. Maybe watching the races on TV, it is not easy to see these differences, even in terms of riding. But certainly, the way I rode the Yamaha in 2017 and 2018 would not be enough today to be as fast as I was at the time. All the riders have improved, all feel good on their bikes. Today in FP4 we were many riders in two tenths, it means that everyone feels good and can push really hard. When this is the situation you have to find a way to do something more. As Fabio did at Jerez and as he will do again this year on other tracks. On the Ducati I can’t do what I did before on other bikes, something more is necessary, and I am certainly different.”
But Brno is good for you, here last year you started from the front row.
“Last year it was a great qualifying here with the KTM, but the conditions were particular. The track was drying, and I had really good sensations. This year the story is completely different, today the pole was extraordinary. Maybe it depends on the fact that my girlfriend is from here, I don’t know! When I arrived at the parc fermé I thought about it to be honest, maybe that’s why I’m strong here in Brno “.
Photo courtesy @Dorna