Johann Zarco says that he made “huge steps” in his second outing with the LCR Honda team as he was able to match the pace of the “good guys” in MotoGP.
Before he crashed as a result of contact with Suzuki rider Joan Mir, Zarco spent the Malaysian Grand Prix inside the top 10, challenging Jack Miller for eighth.
The Frenchman was comfortably ahead of Jorge Lorenzo as well as Cal Crutchlow and also made it to Q2 in qualifying, securing ninth place on the grid.
Zarco said that he was able to close the gap to the top riders by half compared to his first outing in place of Takaaki Nakagami at Phillip Island.
“I was not controlling the pace because we are all at the limit with the heat, physically that is not easy, but I was with a good pace and I was happy about this,” said Zarco.
“[We made up] a good gap. I had to learn in Australia in a tough track and I was like 26 seconds away from the top.
“It means one second per lap in a small track, for me this was a lot. But I had to learn things.
“Here if I can finish the race, I am around 15 seconds from the top. It means almost half [the gap], so huge steps done. I am back on the reality of the top riding and I like it.
“Cal was very fast in qualifying but I knew that I could catch something [in the race]. I did not have the target to be in front of him but all riders that I can be in front of is better for me.”
Zarco added that riding the Honda must come naturally to him if he wants to emulate the successes of Marc Marquez, and hopes to show similar form in the season finale at Valencia.
“Just get everything more automatic on the bike, I am still riding thinking what I have to do,” he said.
“Then when all these things come more naturally in the body, I will have another step done because it means I will be able to focus on other things or I can be even more precise.
“This is a lot of energy to split everything in riding but when you do and it it is working well, it means the bike answers well. But then I must do this automatically, like Marc, then I will do another step.
“Same job [in Valencia]. Work to be straight in Q2, at this level is too important. If I can repeat this race with a top seven, it will be good.”
Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont
Johann Zarco, Team LCR Honda
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images