Johann Zarco was just seconds from taking his first MotoGP victory on home soil.
Johann Zarco is a rider who after 10 MotoGP podiums still has not taken that elusive premier class victory that has evaded him since 2017. We all know the story of Johann Zarco who scored 6 podiums on a Yamaha crashing out of races where he could’ve won including his debut at Qatar and Le Mans 2018. He then moved to KTM before ending his time with the Austrian factory after 11 races and moving to Ducati for the 2020 season where he took his first podium since Sepang 2018 at Brno.
Year on year we are seeing him get stronger with 2021 looking to be his best in the class ever, he is currently locked into a title fight after 5 races sitting in third place only 12 points behind compatriot Fabio Quartararo, he will be ruing his Portimao DNF which could’ve elevated him much closer to the top spot.
In Le Mans he genuinely looked to be in the best shape and form of his career as he hunted down his opposition in the late stages of the race, Zarco was lapping 2-3 seconds faster than the riders ahead of him and it only took him around three laps to catch up to Quartararo and close down a 6-second gap before turning his attention to Jack Miller who was a further 4 seconds up the road.
Zarco has been desperate over the last few seasons to gain that elusive race win and has come shy many many times, a win on home soil would’ve been a dream come true for the Frenchman but it wasn’t to be this time around, he pushed as hard as he could after dealing with Fabio Quartararo to hunt down Jack Miller but Miller had another 20% left in the tank and turned down his traction control and upped his pace to ensure he took home victory.
Despite this he remains in high spirits with a second place, feeling frustrated as he hoped to pit a lap earlier to change from a dry to wet bike but chose not to as the race leaders stayed out on slicks. It was only when Miller ended up in the gravel and Zarco slid around the track did he take matters into his own hands and pit for the wet bike as did everybody else. This decision was a major factor into why he did not win the race, if he had pitted for his second wet bike a lap earlier he would’ve gained at least a 10-second advantage which was lost in his 2 minute lap time as he struggled his way into pit lane, 30 seconds slower than normal pace. Once he was riding on the wet tyres he was lapping in the high 40’s and would’ve soared past Jack Miller who did a lap time of 2:30 before changing bikes.
Another issue Zarco faced was that he had chosen the wrong tyre compound using a medium/medium tyre setup, for him this wasn’t too favourable and it took him 4/5 laps to find his way and start to lap at the speeds he expected to be lapping at which is when his resurgence came.
It’s not the last chance he will get at a win and many more will come, especially given his incredibly strong premier class career-best start to the season already taking three P2 finishes on his Pramac Ducati machine, he is in the strongest form of his life and MotoGP goes to Mugello next time out where the Ducati’s are historically strong. He won’t have it easy but a win is absolutely on the cards.