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.
How I ride: Johann Zarco
The Frenchman was a revelation during his rookie MotoGP season in 2017 and finished top non-factory rider last season – so how does he do it?
During 2017 and 2018 Johann Zarco made a habit of embarrassing factory riders aboard his second-hand Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1.
The Frenchman seemed able to overcome technical deficiencies with a new way of riding which allowed him to get more performance out of his Michelin tyres. Last year he did drift into the doldrums after scoring two podiums from the first four races, then tumbling out of his home GP at Le Mans.
But he was back up to speed at the end of the season, taking a close third-place finish at Sepang, just behind factory riders Marc Márquez and Álex Rins.
This interview was conducted shortly after the two-time Moto2 world champion announced his move to KTM and therefore several months before his gruelling postseason debut on the Austrian V4.
Zarco talks well about riding a MotoGP bike, but he is one of those riders who doesn’t want to dig too deep, because he is worried that deconstructing his technique might leave him unable to put it back together when he’s on the bike.
You’ve said that Jorge Lorenzo has the perfect technique and you are very smooth on the motorcycle, so were you already thinking about MotoGP riding style when you were in Moto2?
Yes, I was watching MotoGP riders then, but I was also working on my feeling and comparing myself with other riders in Moto2. When I started riding a MotoGP bike I began to understand the category, the bike, the power, the electronics and the tyres, so I better understood how MotoGP riders can do the things they do, because sometimes when I was still doing Moto2 I saw them do things I wanted to do on a Moto2 bike, but you can’t do these things on a Moto2 bike.
Why do you like to be smooth on the bike?
I cannot say why I like to be smooth, it’s just when I get on the bike this is the way I ride. For me it’s safer because I don’t like it when the bike is moving too much. So it’s not really the way I want to ride. Being smooth on the bike is the way I ride, the way I feel good.
Your crew chief Guy Coulon says you use a different geometry and suspension set-up to Yamaha’s other riders, to make the bike pitch more and turn better?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.