Tech 3 Yamaha rider Johann Zarco has revealed a front tyre issue was what led to him dropping out of victory contention in the Qatar MotoGP season opener.
Having stormed to pole by two tenths on Saturday, Zarco kept the lead for the first 17 laps of the 22-lap event, rebuffing attacks by Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso.
But he was finally overtaken by both Marquez and Dovizioso on the main straight at the start of the 18th tour, and dropped like a stone from that point on, coming home in eighth place.
Speaking after the race, Zarco – who is still chasing a first MotoGP win – said he had no reason to feel disappointed about his performance, as he would've been in the mix for victory without the tyre issue.
“I must feel happy,” Zarco said. ”I was happy to lead the race, many laps, happy also that it was under control, [albeit] not fast enough to go away.
“I was waiting maybe my opponents overtake me and we start to fight but finally I was able to stay in front.
“But after eight or nine laps I felt a strange feeling in front. So, I got worried and thinking maybe they will have the same problem, my opponents.
“And then five laps to the end, when this problem was getting worse with the front tyre, when they overtook me, I could not fight because I was sliding too much, I was going into the corner, and then if I want to turn the bike while sliding, almost crash.
“So I had to breathe and try to keep my position, but my pace slowed down too much.
“I finished eighth with a technical problem, I think I can be happy about that. I enjoyed that I led the race, and doing races in this way, when everything will be good for all the race, I will fight for victory.”
Zarco chose a medium front tyre, as did most of the frontrunning riders, and insisted normal tyre wear did not account for his dramatic loss of pace.
“I think medium tyre in front was a good choice,” he said. “And usually during the weekend I'm not the kind of rider to complain that we have, for the same tyre [compound], some wrong, some good.
“But in the race, is not only my feeling, because it's too easy to say, when you have a problem, to say there is a technical problem.
“But when the technician from Michelin in your team says something is wrong - then you can be happy about your race.”
Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont