By looking at a picture or even watching an interview, most people would say Zarco looks way too innocent to be a MotoGP rider. Nevertheless, the rest of the paddock sees him as an aggressive rider.
The Frenchman is a humble, hardworking rider. And when he gets on the track, he’s not afraid of fighting toe-to-toe with riders such as Rossi, Márquez and Lorenzo. Not only that, he actually loves it. Zarco is the kind of rider who, in his first season, already shows he can be as fast as the top guys and he is not intimidated by any of them.
For instance, right in the first race he jumped to the lead and held it for the first six laps before crashing out. He didn’t score any points, however, he surprised everyone.
Two races after that, Johann tried to overtake Rossi with little space, unsuccessfully. Rossi cut through the inside of the corner and went on with his race. After the race finished, the French rider said there was no problem with what Rossi did, since it didn’t affect the result of the race. On the contrary, Valentino made a strong remark: “this is not Moto2”.
That wasn’t the last time Zarco’s moves were considered risky. After the Japanese round, where he overtook Lorenzo without giving him enough room, the Spaniard made his voice heard: “It is similar as when you play on PlayStation. He feels like there is no rider in front of him and he is just entering your line and he doesn’t care.”
Zarco dismissed Lorenzo’s claims and also said: “When you are a rookie, you have to work to get the respect from the others.” This statement explains his attitude in situations like this. He wants to prove he is not just one more rider, he is in MotoGP to fight for victories with the best riders.
Even though he is aggressive on overtaking, Johann is able to conserve the tyres better than most of his rivals due to his technical skills. This combination of smooth riding style with fearless overtakes helped him get three podiums this season. Moreover he scored points in every race since the second round, which made him the top rookie of the season, standing out from the other newcomers.
There are two interesting facts which build Johann’s approach towards his career. For one thing, he started his career late, since he made his debut in the World Championship at 19 years old while most riders start at 16. This made him a fighter and a patient learner. For another thing, he doesn’t care a lot about social media. He prefers to be fully focused on motorcycling, which keeps him away of distractions.
A mix of smooth riding style with bold moves alongside a strong mentality made Johann Zarco a good surprise for the neutral MotoGP fan. He provided us with many exciting battles and moments. Who knows if this “offline” guy would be able to fight for the championship with a factory ride… Let’s hope that, at least, he will continue to make races interesting.