Johann Zarco takes the challenge to the world stage

Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco

The 125cc Championship has proven to be a mighty category for up and coming riders on the world stage and 2011 will be the final year of this category before Moto3 joins the ladder.  Frenchman Johann Zarco is trying to come the final 125cc Champion.

At the end of the 2011 season, Zarco will have competed in three full seasons of the Championship – two of which showed some potential – one of which he proved it.

It hasn’t been an easy run.  He lost the closest race in the history of history.  A race where the riders were separated by 0.000 of a second at the line.  The race, at the German Sachsenring was sorted by the fastest lap time – and Hector Faubel had the faster time.

At San Marino, he seemed to have it won before losing it to Nicolas Terol on the line.  And at the Catalan GP he was given a 20second penalty after the flag after weaving to win.  These three races seemed to put a monkey on his back.

He rid that monkey in Motegi.  He explained his emotions to us when we caught up with him at Phillip Island.

“You know, twice I thought I won but no.  In the last moment at San Marino, when I crossed the line I was so, so happy I was moving too much on the bike and lost it.”

“In Motegi, it was different as I could have a gap to second.”

“Finally I could hold the energy in myself and when I crossed the line I was not so crazy on the bike.  The moment I saw that I really won I was so happy.”

It was not until later though that he realised the breadth of his achievement.

“I had so much emotion when I heard the French anthem on the top of the podium.  I felt good.  This was the best moment.  When I went back toFrance, I didn’t party.  I was thinking how I did it, how I had the first victory so I could do it again.”

I had so much emotion when I heard the French anthem on the top of the podium.  I felt good.  This was the best moment.

Whether or not he can win the 125cc title is not going to impar his path to Moto2.  He has had to deal with more disappointment than most 125cc riders before him and this has undoubtedly made him stronger.

This was on show in the qualifying session atPhillipIslandwhere changeable conditions made the session difficult.

“We started strong and fast as we were worried it was going to rain.  So we set a good lap time at the start of the session.  Later it wasn’t raining so we could still work with the team to set up the bike, make the next step and gain some confidence.”

Getting pole position could be important as rain was forecast for raceday and a good result was imperative for his title bid.  Zarco went out a the end of the session for one last shot – despite already having a front row spot.

“The last lap – I tell myself to try again to get a good laptime.  I was coming onto a slower rider and on the last corner I came across the #9 bike and I was thinking how can I overtake him.”

“This made me lose some concentration and I crashed.  Fortunately I have no pain and tomorrow I will catch the confidence again and in the race we will have many riders together.  We have to be careful to win the race or finish well.”


2011 125cc race at Phillip Island (full race)

And he did.

The race was run in changeable conditions and Zarco went to finish 3rd – but could have battled for second if the race wasn’t called on lap 20 of 23.  Despite this, he took the fight to Terol to close the Championship battle.

Zarco may need some luck to beat Terol – who has taken first and seconds to Zarco’s seconds and thirds but this will not stop Zarco’s step to the next level of Grand Prix racing.

“I will make the step into Moto2.  In 125cc I have shown I am a good rider and that I can race at the front.”

“People also want me to ride for them so I have to take the opportunity and take the step to Moto2.”

Something to look forward to – that is for sure.

Interview and article by Sam Tickell, October 2011