Written by Staff Writer
MotoGP has been a step away from the top of the podium for Venezuelan Marlboro MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco.
The J.D. Watson McLaren GTR rider finished in fifth place at last year’s title decider in Valencia, with no further racing in 2017.
Over the offseason he left France to be part of a new production company, “Zaro Media & Entertainment” (the Sagramor Group), launched to give the brands and performers involved with MotoGP a bigger say in the sport.
In a big break for the sport, he’s competing in a one-off race with MotoGP sponsor William Hill on Sunday at the famous Valencia street circuit.
Sporting a t-shirt and vest, Zarco and his William Hill team-mates with the Soccer Aid charity on Saturday, waving the flag for the charity of the late FC United manager Matt Busby.
While Zarco isn’t a lottery winner himself, he is on better financial terms than he was during his initial MotoGP seasons, where he was often based in a small town with few resources — remember the awkward period where his village was renamed Marlboro Motorsports after he bought himself a race bike?
Last year, having saved on his prize-money from an unsuccessful ride in a 500cc race in Azerbaijan, he bought his own race bike.
Surprises in store
Now he’s ready to return to the world of sport betting and sports betting is his downfall after he set up his business — or at least he is according to McLaren and Marlboro, who sponsor him.
Zarco is already the dominant rider among the 19 starters in this year’s race, and it would be fitting if he snapped up a third win in Valencia.
He has shown early form, topping the timesheets over both the fast and technical first sector, which means his current lap is faster than the fastest lap in the previous race.
The riders and the riding staff, though, have made sacrifices too.
Williams GTR pace-setter Johann Zarco is swapping from European to MotoGP for the season’s final race. The MotoGP season concludes on Sunday November 18.
Zarco and his Williams team-mate Zak Brown left their traditional Sunday morning breakfast in Milan, and while only a race ride away, their focus is to stop team-mate and championship leader Marc Marquez breathing down their necks.
Zarco’s quick lap time of 1:41.400 — on a Valencia street circuit notoriously slow for speeds and long for encounters with other bikes — isn’t far behind Marquez, who sets his lap at 1:41.724.
He has been very good this year, and being in the darkened state of the track as the race approaches, the Honduru rider is feeling confident but realistic too.
“I think this track is very easy, which is a good strategy, but it is also a race,” he says.
“I’ll be cool when I enter the pits, this is a good starting point. In the beginning of the race I’m going to be relaxed, because I know my bike, I know where I need to be on the circuit.”
Marquez, of course, expects big things from Zarco.
“He’s quick, fast, and smart, and he’s already shown that he can do really good things,” Marquez said.
“He’s very consistent, and I have confidence in him, but it’s his first race in the bike and he needs to keep working hard in training in order to do everything the right way.”
Zarco is taking the famous Dubrovnik circuit in Croatia for free on the tour’s first leg and expects to race near home for the next four rounds.
As for his teammates, while he’s racing with a 30-race ban in place, Brown is his teammate during his absence and is delighted to take his place in the riders’ row.
“I’m just happy to be racing,” he says.
“I really enjoy it, because I get to do something with Johann.
“I get to learn and help Johann, and at the same time it’s good for me to be there when he is racing.”