Motorcycles Ducati: "Gamble" Zarco proving to be rider "we thought he was"
Johann Zarco is looking for even more lightness on the Ducati in Qatar
© Motorsport Images Johann Zarco wants to be able to handle the Ducati even more instinctively Johann Zarco finished the first two days of the MotoGP test in Qatar as the second best Ducati rider in sixth place 0.416 seconds behind the fastest time of Fabio Quartararo (Petronas-Yamaha). For Zarco it was the first outing with the current Desmosedici GP21 in Pramac colors. "I'm happy that I was able to drive pretty fast. The speed is there," said the Frenchman.
Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti admits signing Johann Zarco in 2020 was a “gamble” as “nobody trusted him” following his miserable part-2019 MotoGP campaign with KTM.
Zarco registered just one top 10 result in his stint with KTM as a factory rider in 2019, which ended after the Misano round when the marque elected to drop him with immediate effect after he'd already announced the termination of his two-year contract following the Austrian Grand Prix.
A three-race run with LCR and Honda as Takaaki Nakagami's stand-in ultimately wasn't enough to secure him a full-time HRC ride for 2020, with Zarco seriously considering a return to Moto2.
ZARCO: "Now my time is to fight victories and podiums"
Johann Zarco looks perfectly situated in order to play in the MotoGP season 2021 at the front - on which weakness he is particularly concentrated once Stand Johann Zarco as Ducati pilot already on the podium: 2020 he went to the Grand Prix of Czech Republic in Brno with the DESMOSEDICI GP19 on the third place, at that time still in the Avintia team. Now, with the current Desmo in Pramac colors, he wants to create it for a few times more on the podium.
Ducati convinced him to sign with it and join Avintia – which he initially shunned – and a podium at Brno last year led to his promotion to Pramac with full factory support for this season.
Finishing second in both Qatar races and as top Ducati rider, Zarco leads the championship by four points ahead of this weekend's Portuguese GP.
"We are happy because Johann was a gamble by Ducati when nobody was considering him," Ciabatti told
"I think he will be a protagonist throughout the championship.
"Johann was convinced by us to stay in MotoGP at the end of 2019, because we thought he was a talented rider.
"After a very complicated year with KTM, nobody trusted him to the extent he wanted to go back to Moto2.
Zarco: MotoGP points lead "not redemption" for KTM nadir
Pramac’s Johann Zarco leads the MotoGP standings following the Doha Grand Prix, but doesn’t consider this any form of “redemption” following his near career-ending KTM nadir in 2019. © Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing Zarco was signed to KTM from Tech 3 Yamaha in 2019 in a move that was expected to see him fight for race wins and the title with the Austrian marque. But he endured a miserable part-campaign with the marque, terminating his two-year contract following the Austrian GP before KTM dropped him with immediate effect following the San Marino GP.
"With the help of Ducati he built up a confidence with the bike over the course of 2020 that has led him to merit a move to Pramac, with bikes identical to the factory team.
"Now he is proving to be the rider we thought he was."
Zarco admitted following his Qatar double podium that leading the MotoGP standings was not any sort of redemption for his tough times at KTM.
Ciabatti added: "Because of the resources we inject there, Pramac is a factory team with another sponsor.
"And in that sense, Johann is earning that Ducati sees him as an equally valid option in the title fight as Jack [Miller] and Pecco [Bagnaia]."
In Qatar, Pramac rookie Jorge Martin stunned with pole at the Doha GP and third in the race having led for the first 17 laps.
Martin's Doha performance courted comparisons to other legendary MotoGP rookies, but Ciabatti was wary of putting too much pressure on his shoulders.
"What he has to do is to continue like this, as he has done so far," Ciabatti added.
"Now we have to see what happens on circuits where he hasn't ridden the Ducati before, and where he will only have two days to get used to them.
""The last race in Qatar was very special because all the riders had been riding there for many days, and that is something that helps the rookies.
"It will be now, on tracks that are new to him, where we will see his maturity and ability to adapt."
Bagnaia doesn't feel like number two rider at Ducati MotoGP .
Francesco Bagnaia says Ducati has not made him feel like a number two rider in its factory MotoGP squad, despite teammate Jack Miller being tipped as an early title favourite. © Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images Jack Miller, Ducati Team Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team Ducati has refreshed its factory line-up for 2021, bringing in former Pramac pair Miller and Bagnaia to replace the ousted Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci. Miller ended pre-season testing fastest of all with an unofficial lap record in Qatar of 1m53.183s, while 2018 Moto2 champion Bagnaia was just 0.281s behind him in fifth.