MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Vive le Zarco!
Finalement, France has someone to cheer in MotoGP. Rookie Johann Zarco has lit up the 2017 season and will be going all-out at Le Mans this weekend
MotoGP has never seen anything like it; at least not since Marc Márquez arrived in 2013. Two weeks ago at Jerez, reigning Moto2 champion Johann Zarco rode the first few laps like he was the king and the rest were rookies. He charged past Valentino Rossi (twice), Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Márquez in just a few laps, finding gaps where others could find none.
“Zarco reminds me of me when I arrived in MotoGP,” grins Márquez. “He is really aggressive, he pushes to the limit and sometimes he nearly crashes. This is the way to learn, you need to push, so he’s working in a good way.”
Zarco’s pace and bravery at Jerez were magical and will bring tens of thousands of French fans to Le Mans. It’s about time France had someone to cheer in the class of kings. During 69 years of Grand Prix racing the nation has won only three races in the premier class – that’s an average of one victory every 23 years. Compare that to 230 victories by Italians, 154 by Americans, 137 by Britons and 135 by Spaniards.
The 125cc and Moto2 winner from the Cote d’Azur is already France’s most successful Grand Prix rider by far, with 16 wins, more than double that of the country’s previous top scorers: Christian Sarron, Olivier Jacque and Arnaud Vincent, who each won seven GPs.
This is strange, considering a little-known fact: the French were the first kings of motorcycling, before the British, the Americans, the Italians and the Japanese. From the late 1890s until the First World War the French made the best bikes and had the best riders.
The greatest brands of bike racing’s early years were all French: De Dion Bouton, Werner and Peugeot. Norton won its first Isle of Man TT victory in 1907 using a Peugeot engine. Not that you would’ve known it, because James Lansdowne Norton had the foreign logo erased from the crankcases of his machine. The French were so far ahead they had four-valve cylinder heads in 1903.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.