Johann Zarco admits that retirement was on the cards when his departure from Ducati was announced – why he still signed with LCR-Honda for two years
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: Johann Zarco was a Ducati rider for four full seasons in the MotoGP World Championship. This time came to an end for the Frenchman last weekend at the 2023 season finale in Valencia.
Zarco made his debut in the Ducati camp in the 2020 season with the then customer team Avintia. In his third race for the team, the Czech Grand Prix in Brno, he achieved his first podium finish (despite a long lap penalty). It remained Zarco’s only top three finish for Avintia, but he had won over the Ducati bosses. The Frenchman switched to the factory-supported Pramac team for 2021.
Zarco has achieved 14 podiums in three years for Pramac-Ducati, including his farewell to the team last Sunday in Valencia. Looking back, however, his personal highlight from a total of four years as a Ducati rider is a different one.
“That’s easy to answer,” said Zarco on the Valencia weekend when asked about it. “That was of course the victory on Phillip Island. That was the best possible result that was even possible.” Zarco achieved this longed-for first victory of his MotoGP career at the 120th attempt
“But,” Zarco continued about his personal Ducati highlights, “it was also my consistency, both in the 2021 season and this  season. We had a lot of new things to deal with this year, like the sprints. I didn’t score many points in the sprint races, but I still finished the World Championship in fifth place.”
As Zarco admits, retirement was definitely an option when he learned in the summer that he would lose his place in the Pramac team for 2024. “I thought about maybe retiring at the end of this season,” the 33-year-old Frenchman reveals now that his three-year stint with the Pramac team and his four-year stint as a Ducati rider have come to an end.
Why did he still decide to continue? “Because I’ve been given another chance and I still feel fresh enough for two more years.” Zarco is of course referring to the two-year contract he signed with LCR-Honda in August.
Zarco will line up for Lucio Cecchinello’s team in the 2024 and 2025 MotoGP seasons. As the successor to Alex Rins, he is one of the two regular riders at LCR, having already competed in three races as a substitute rider for the team at the end of 2019.
Zarco has now completed his first laps on a current Honda RC213V. He made his debut as a regular rider for the LCR team at the Valencia test on Tuesday this week. However, Zarco is not yet allowed to talk about his first impressions of the current Honda because he is still officially under contract with Ducati until the end of the year.
In the timesheets of the Valencia test, Zarco finished 17th on the LCR Honda, one second behind the leader. His successor at Pramac-Ducati – Franco Morbidelli – was only a few hundredths of a second faster in P16. Morbidelli, who comes from Yamaha, did not have a good feeling on his first day on a Ducati. Meanwhile, his successor in the Yamaha team – Alex Rins, who came from LCR Honda – spoke of a “really good” first day on the M1 despite finishing P19.