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Fresh from claiming the 2015 Moto2™ World Championship, Johann Zarco sat down to reflect on an incredible seson.
With 309 points in 15 races, 7 wins, 13 podiums and 103 points ahead of his nearest rival, Johann Zarco dominated Moto2™ in 2015. Fresh from being crowned World Champion, the Ajo Motorsport rider takes stock of his historic season.
A mechanical error deprived you of victory in Qatar in the first GP of the season. What did you think at that moment? Did you begin to doubt the project?
"No, because the truth is I was not worried; this is part of racing. In preseason testing we were strong and we took really positive things from the first race in Qatar, because we were leading the race with a good advantage. Maybe this race was the key to getting confidence and saying to myself, 'Yes, this year we can win races and fight for the title.' At no time did I lose confidence."
How did you adapt so fast to this bike?
"Because the bike was good. From the first moment I felt very comfortable. Before this season I had three years of experience with other different bikes that allowed me to understand the strengths of the Kalex and enjoy them. With my experience and a good bike, it was easy to adapt."
What did you change about yourself to become a new rider?
"I don’t know, maybe the confidence to know I can be fast. The biggest change was to stay calm when things were not going as well as expected. I can still improve in this respect, but I think this is the big difference that allowed me to enjoy my riding more. The team played an important role in this change."
After your 3 previous seasons in Moto2™, in which you took six podiums, did you expect to achieve 13 in 15 races this season?
"These results were what I wanted when I signed with Aki [Ajo] and Ajo Motorsport, and with Kalex. As I said, with the experience I had, I should have been able to fight for the title, fight for the victories, and to be consistently on the podium. It is fantastic to have been on the podium so many times, because it is the key to winning the title."
Which was the race you enjoyed the most this season?
"Many races. When you win, it is incredible wherever you do it. Assen maybe, where I fought hard with Tito [Rabat]. Barcelona was another one, but the fight in Assen was more under control and I felt even stronger. Victory in Silverstone was also special. With wet tyres and an almost dry track, it was a great feeling to get the advantage I did at the front of the race."
After which race was it hardest to do your famous backflip?
"Barcelona maybe, because after a tough race I went to an area where there was an air fence and it was too soft to make the jump. In the end I managed to do it; I don’t know if I struggled because I was tired or if it was not the right place. Anyway, I have to admit that when I finish tired, it is in races I haven’t won."
Where does the celebration come from?
"I started doing it with my first victory in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. It's a thing that I think people like and I will continue to do it until they get tired of me. If that happens it will be good, because it means that I will have won many races. After that, the problem is finding another good celebration. The backflip is not because I was a gymnast, but it just something I used to do in the playground."
You have kept up your ambition to win the final races. What do you do to remain competitive?
"Well, it’s as easy as listening to what the team tells you. In Aragon I learned I had to be focused on only one thing: The race. What happens around me could be good or bad, but I had to give my all and not focus on anything else. If I can do this always, I will be competitive in the remaining races and next year. It is important to understand how I should work mentally to get success."
Which Moto2™ riders surprised you the most this season?
"Maybe Alex Rins for his fantastic results, but I already knew that he was a great rider. The one who surprised me, and I’m pleased for him, is Hafizh Syahrin. This guy improved a lot in recent races and it’s fantastic."
You have been sharing many hours with your team at the circuits. Can you explain any funny story with them that happened this year?
"A very funny story was after the Barcelona race, during testing. We were trying many things on the bike so it was a lot of work for the mechanics in the garage, and I came to them with a coffee and I told them: ‘I’m happy, because you are working on the bike and I’m relaxing drinking a coffee, so we are a very good team.’ They didn’t answer me and when I went out on track, on the straight, they showed me that they were drinking coffee and eating some crisps. They said to me 'OK, now it is your time to work and we can have a rest.' That was so funny and I was laughing or the next three corners."
What did Ajo Motorsport give you so you could win the title with them, four years after your first encounter?
"They gave me my confidence back, because they are very professional. We can have maybe some small problems with the bike, then you get on it for the race and you feel that it’s better than it has been all weekend. They are able to give me this small step forward we need to be 100% comfortable. This is the difference. They are always looking to make things better on the bike, give me confidence and help me to do my job using my experience and take victories."
You were the first Red Bull Rookies Cup champion. What did that experience give you?
"2007 was the first year of the Red Bull Rookies Cup and the plan was not to go into the World Championship straight away. It was a different plan, but thanks to the Red Bull Rookies Cup I could show what I was able to do, and in 2008 I came into contact with Gabor Talmacsi –who gave me the chance to go into the World Championship. The Red Bull Rookies Cup allowed me to show my face in Grand Prix racing and have people see me."
Do you think you have a chance to win the title again next season?
"I think normally, yes. With same team, the same bike, one more year of experience for me and also for the team, there is so much more data to use. I must fight for the title but there is no pressure on me. I need to do my work from preseason on and be relaxed and focused at every race. That’s how I want to do things, like this year. It might be more difficult, because the other riders already know me and are strong. This is the best challenge for me."
Why did you want to stay another year in the category and with Ajo Motorsport?
"Fighting for title and to win races is fantastic, and if I can remain one of the best in Moto2, I will have a good chance in MotoGP. When I move up to MotoGP, I want to do so in good conditions. With two good seasons in Moto2, maybe I will have the opportunity to go up to MotoGP. Furthermore, with Ajo Motorsport I have found the mental and technical stability to be calm. They are my family at the circuits. I spend 24 hours a day with them and they take care of me a lot. I wanted to thank them for all their work and support in all aspects, so I wanted to spend another year with them."
Which MotoGP riders inspire you most?
"My idol is Valentino Rossi, but with top riders like Marquez, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi, there are many things to learn from each of them. With Rossi, however, I can’t help but get excited when I talk to him. He’s my idol."
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