Zarco: Honda deal has closed the door at Yamaha
Johann Zarco says the door to becoming a Yamaha test rider is "closed" after he accepted an offer to deputise for Honda man Takaaki Nakagami in the final MotoGP races of 2019.
After parting ways with KTM, Zarco made it clear that he was seeking a chance to join a different manufacturer as a test rider with no obvious race chances available for 2020.
The Frenchman was in negotiations with Yamaha, whose then-customer outfit Tech 3 he represented in 2017-18 before moving to KTM, with the aim of being able to make a handful of wildcard outings next season.
But those plans were thrown aside when LCR offered Zarco the opportunity to fill in for the injured Nakagami at Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia this year.
Speaking to French publication L'Equipe, Zarco made it clear that accepting Honda's offer means he definitely won't return to the Yamaha fold.
“It has clearly closed," said Zarco of the Yamaha option. "Honda and Yamaha are two big rivals. I talked to each [of them] and made a choice, with full knowledge of the facts.
"I opted for the competition. It's up to me to be up to it. I’m not afraid, it's good adrenaline.”
Zarco added he isn't worried that the call-up to replace Nakagami will prove a poisoned chalice, given the Honda RC213V's reputation as a tough bike to ride.
"They didn’t call to win the last races," he said. "They’ve offered me this bike because I’m available. From my side, I just hope to find good feelings. And if I can’t make use of this material they will provide me, it will mean I don’t have my place in MotoGP.
"They give me three races, they give me a chance and I want to live it at the maximum. I took a risk leaving KTM, I can’t refuse now as they have throw me a lifeline.
"I know there is something to seek, I need to be up to it.”
Asked if he was told there could be a chance to replace the struggling Jorge Lorenzo at the works Honda team if things went well, Zarco replied: “No, they told me to make no illusion.
"I’m fully aware of the reality, even if we can think these three races will also be a test. I’m already very happy that I have been given this chance. I can’t wait to be in Australia.”
Yamaha team manager Massimo Meregalli indicated that, in light of Zarco's decision, the Iwata marque is set to retain Jonas Folger (pictured bottom) as its test rider for 2020.
Losing the chance to hire Zarco comes as a blow for Yamaha, Valentino Rossi admitted.
"It's a pity for Yamaha," said the Italian. "We were trying to have Zarco as a test rider, which was an important thing, but right now he seems closer to Honda.
"If he doesn't come, another good rider will have to be found. Perhaps difficult [to find one who is] at Zarco's level, but you have to find one that is strong."
Speaking to Canal+, Zarco said that finding a ride in Moto2 for the 2020 campaign would now be his priority in the event his LCR tryout leads nowhere.
"We'll have to work on another plan still, probably in Moto2," he said. "It may be better to do 20 races during the whole year and train with this aim of fighting for the win every weekend.
"It would enable me to stay much more in an intensity and in the pleasure of riding, instead of becoming a test rider and maybe start to turn myself off."
Jonas Folger, Yamaha Team
Photo by: MotoGP
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