Johann Zarco returns to racing in MotoGP this weekend replacing Takaaki Nakagami for the remaining three rounds of the 2019 season with the Japanese rider missing the final rounds of the season to undergo surgery on his shoulder.
Zarco’s decision to take up the offer of riding the 2018 RC213V Honda at LCR has effectively ended his chances of a return to the Yamaha fold in a test ride capacity for 2020 and therefore also wildcard appearances on a Yamaha.
It also means that there is a lot, for better use of a phrase, riding on the three races Zarco is due to have on the LCR Honda.
This is an opportunity therefore that Zarco has to seize in order to rebuild his reputation in MotoGP after a difficult season on the factory KTM bike. With perhaps the biggest conundrum being exactly what is the best way to judge Zarco in his three race Honda stint.Embed from Getty Images
There is no point in comparing him against Marc Marquez or even Cal Crutchlow considering they are on the 2019 Honda, the same could be said for trying to compare Zarco against Jorge Lorenzo who is also on a different version of the RC213V to the Frenchman.
There could be a temptation then to compare Zarco’s results against those of Nakagami’s, but this too would be skewed considering the amount of time the Japanese rider has spent both in testing and throughout the 2019 season to get used to the bike, especially as Nakagami’s best result in 2019 is fifth at the Italian Grand Prix.
Another point could be trying to compare Zarco’s performance on the KTM and comparing it to his performance on the Honda. In terms of results, Zarco’s best finish on the KTM came on his final appearance for the Austrian team, claiming eleventh at Misano.Embed from Getty Images
With only three races to make an impression, points finishes, even if they are lower down in the points should be seen as a solid effort. Alternatively a reference could be the gap from Zarco to the pole sitter/race winner over the course of the three races to see if it steadily comes down. Further still the reference and comparison could be something more subtle such as his mentality and approach in the final three races, with KTM having been reported making reference to Zarco’s negativity, even after a relatively positive race weekend, such as his weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Outside of finishing inside the top five in either qualifying or the race, it could be difficult for Zarco to make an impression, especially if observers have different criteria they are setting him against. Whatever the case Zarco has an opportunity, even if it is just a small one, to show and remind people of just how talented a rider he is and hopefully open up opportunities for 2020 and beyond.