Having got his first taste of the Honda RC213V in Valencia last year, Zarco got another opportunity to test the bike during last week’s official shakedown test in Malaysia, as he took full advantage of MotoGP’s new concessions system to complete two days of running.
To his own surprise, the Frenchman ended the test with the third-fastest time, lapping just 0.2s off the pace set by Tech3 KTM newcomer Pedro Acosta.
Speaking to selected media afterwards, Zarco said his performance in Sepang has strengthened his belief that Honda has turned a corner with its 2024 prototype.
Asked to sum up the shakedown, he said: “Quite good. Always you get happy when some lap times are coming.
“I didn’t expect it, that’s why it’s even giving a better feeling than what I could expect.
“But clearly already the changes Honda did, what they brought in Valencia was quite interesting and this gave me very good hopes during the winter. And I got this confirmation during the two days I did of the shakedown.
“I believe and I feel that we will also work with the performance. I’m happy because it seems like a good time now to do this job with Honda and the way Honda are also adding or bringing new things is helping a lot.”
Johann Zarco, Team LCR Honda
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Zarco left Pramac Ducati after four seasons to join Honda’s satellite LCR team in 2024, replacing Yamaha-bound Alex Rins.
The move was met with a lot of initial scepticism, as many questioned Zarco’s choice to leave what has consistently been the best bike over the last two years in favour of a manufacturer that finished last in the championship.
But Honda has quietly been working on a number of changes behind the scenes, mostly in its failed bid to retain six-time champion Marc Marquez for the final year of his contract, with the arrival of Shin Sato as its new technical director forming a major part of the shake-up.
Under Sato, Honda brought two specifications of the RC213V to Sepang last week, and Zarco will get to evaluate the changes further when the entire MotoGP field converges at the Malaysia venue from 6-8 February for the first full-blown pre-season test of the year.
The 34-year-old said he has been impressed with how Honda has been able to deliver an instant improvement under its new structure and feels he is lucky that the timing of his arrival has coincided with a change in the Japanese manufacturer’s approach to…