Call it the Zarco effect.
While holeshoting the MotoGP grid on a Tech 3 bike isn’t super-unusual–how many times did Brad Smith and or Ben Spies do so?–to do it in your first MotoGP race and to then follow up that with very impressive qualifying performances and race finishes is one click away from amazing. The zen-man Zarco–he’s the closest a MotoGP rookie has come to looking anything like Marc Marquez did in 2013 .
Johan Zarco is the new gold standard for MotoGP rookies. He’s fast, probably came cheap and is very much a “no drama” rider. The important attribute is that he’s consistently fast, and after just a few races Tech 3 signed Zarco to a new contract that runs through 2018.
If you’re a team manager and you want your bikes on the podium in MotoGP you either offer Casey Stoner $20 million to return to MotoGP or you note the success of the Frenchman and you try your best to emulate it.
Where does the Zarco effect leave riders like Jack Miller, the other Lowes, Scott Redding and Tito Rabat, among others?
Lowes hasn’t even done a season on the Aprilia MotoGP bike and there is already talk he won’t be back next year. And if you’re Pramac Ducati and you can sign either Scott Redding or Jack Miller, which do you choose? And Tito Rabbat? He was very fast in Moto2 but the move to MotoGP has been a disaster with big crashes, multiple surgeries and without any significant speed. Franco Morbidelli will replace him.
All of this, the crashing, the double digit finishing positions, the inability to tame wheelspin and even Miller’s devil-may-care attitude and color are made to seem like unnecessary obstacles. In walks Zarco–no entourage, no drama–he doesn’t even own a car–he gets on a bike that was expected to finish 15th and challenges for wins.
His emergence as a force to be reckoned with in his rookie season of MotoGP may well make life very difficult for several riders hoping to stay in the class.