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12 days ago
By Ajo Motorsport

Zarco ITW: “I wake up feeling I have to be champion"

Johann Zarco reflects on the first half of the 2016 Moto2™ season which sees him leading the championship by 25 points with 9 races to go.

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Highlights: Zarco cashes in as rivals crash out

The French rider reaches the midway point of the season as the leader of the Moto2™ class with 151 points, 25 clear of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) in second place. The Ajo Motorsport rider has been on the podium six times so far in 2016, including wins in Argentina, Italy, Catalonia and Germany, but is wary of complacency and determined to keep up his momentum in his quest to retain the title.

How do you feel about the first half of the season?
"I feel good and I'm happy to be at the top of the standings. This is very important in the fight for the championship. I’m comfortable on the bike and have the mentality to push 100%. We have done a lot, but we are only halfway through the season and we need to be very focused for the second half of the campaign, because I think nothing is done yet. I am happy and motivated to be strong until the end."

"I am aware that becoming World Champion again is difficult..." Johann Zarco

Did you expect this start to the season? What would you have settled for before starting out?
"I am aware that becoming World Champion again is difficult, and especially after the Jerez test that was very difficult for me. Then in the first few races I didn’t look as strong as I was last year, but this is part of our work. This means that we have to appreciate how difficult it is to fight for the championship, considering that everybody wants to win it. That’s why it is always tough and very interesting at the same time, when you start to understand that. It is a pleasure to understand this difficulty and even more so to find the solution to be stronger."

Which victory was more important to you: Argentina or Mugello?
"I would say that all victories are important. In Qatar I made a pretty big mistake, but luckily I was able to win at the next race in Argentina. That was when I could tell myself 'We’re back in business.' At Mugello I had the same feeling, after I had fought for victory at Le Mans despite not having the pace and crashing. All victories are important and I don’t want to say that any are more important than others."

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Highlights: Zarco takes second win of season in Moto2™

Le Mans was the first time you did not finish in the points, after 24 races. Was this a blow to you?
"You're always disappointed when you don’t have a good race, but you can’t be more disappointed just because it’s your home race, because you don’t get more points there than at other Grands Prix. When you're thinking about the championship, you realise that every race is important, whether you're riding in your home country or not. The only thing that changes is that you have the support of the fans and pressure from journalists, which you can handle well or badly. However, it was of course disappointing. Always being on the limit is very hard physically and mentally. If you're used to riding on the limit you'll always be up there”

What is the difference from last year in the Moto2™ class?
"The difference is me, because this year I am the reigning champion and last year I wasn’t. When I wake up every morning thinking I'm the champion, this adds pressure on me. Last year I got up thinking I wanted to be champion, and now I wake up with the feeling that I have to be champion. This might be a difference, since the work we do is the same as always."

If you analyse all the riders, it seems that many are inconsistent this season. Why do you think this happens? Do you think it's because you are all on the limit?
"It's one of the good things about the Moto2 class; we all have the same bike and the same tyres and that is why we are all so close together, pushing for the limit every weekend. Always being on the limit is very hard physically and mentally. If you're used to riding on the limit you'll always be up there."

Which riders will be fighting for the title until the final races?
"If you look at the standings now, it seems that Sam Lowes and Alex Rins will be two such riders. It should be remembered that Rins was runner-up last year, and I think that he should get consistency and points with the year of experience that he has."

Have you have changed any part of your riding style since last year? Have you improved in anything?
"It is hard to say. I always try to feel good on the bike and grow in terms of my riding style. I don’t mean changing the 'Zarco style,' but rather improving, as this is what I am trying to do this year."

What do you think about the second part of the season?
"We have 8 races in 3 months, and that makes our job a lot harder both physically and mentally. We will have to be strong throughout the second half of the season."

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Zarco gets advice on his MotoGP™ move

You announced just before the German Grand Prix that you will be riding in MotoGP™ next year. Does that make you more relaxed for the remainder of the season?
"I want to continue to keep a cool head, and it is good for me that everything is in place for the future. I have people who are dealing with this and I believe in them. My job is to be a rider, and that is what I'm doing. I don’t get distracted by matters off the track."

Brad Binder, who rides for Ajo Motorsport in Moto3™, is in a similar situation to yours from last year. What advice would you give him?
"The truth is I don’t know what to say to him, but he does have an advantage in the championship standings similar to that which I had in 2015. What I am clear about is that I do not believe it is all done. Brad is smart enough not to think otherwise. We are only halfway through the season and there is still the other half to go. He needs to take things race by race.”