In a year that was full of surprises, perhaps the biggest was the performance of Johann Zarco in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. After previous Moto2 champions had come into MotoGP and taken their time to find their feet – or in the case of Tito Rabat, struggled badly – the 27-year-old Frenchman had taken to the premier class like a duck to water, leading the first six laps of his first race in MotoGP before crashing out.
That race would not be a one off. He finished on the podium at his home Grand Prix at Le Mans, started from pole at Assen, and ended the season with three podiums in total, as Rookie of the Year, as best independent rider of the year, and sixth in the championship. Zarco was a factor to be accounted for at almost every race in his debut season.
Earlier this year, at Barcelona, we spoke to his crew chief Guy Coulon, a veteran of the series and one of the most thoughtful and wisest of the chief mechanics in the paddock. Coulon gave us a fascinating insight into how he works with Johann Zarco, and why he believes the Frenchman has been so quick this year. He talks about what makes him unique, the difference in his approach compared to other riders Coulon has worked with in the past, and what makes him such a competitive rider.
Q: Johann Zarco is doing something extraordinary in his rookie season. Where does that come from, do you think?
Guy Coulon: Now we know better, of course, so we can analyze it. But in the beginning, when we started to test together during the winter, we could feel he had some good possibilities, some strong points, no weak points. So I mean – and this is true also for Jonas [Folger] – from the first test, he had no problems with the MotoGP about braking style, how to use the throttle. It was already very good for MotoGP, so this is a good point.