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 get two days of running under his belt .
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Frenchman ended the test with the third-fastest time of all with a lap that was just 0.2s off the pace set by Tech3 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 Frenchman’s move was met with a lot of initial skepticism, as many questioned his choice to leave what has consistently been the best bike over the last two years in favor of a manufacturer that finished plum last in the championship.
But Honda has quietly been working on several changes behind the scenes, mostly in its failed bid to retain six-time champion Marc Márquez for the final year of his contract, with the arrival of Shin Sato as his 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 left 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 towards MotoGP .
“What I like about Honda [is that] they needed time to bring new things, but these new things seem to work quite well,” he explained.
“What can be very positive is that we are only at the beginning of the new project and knowing the way the Japanese are able to work gives me very good hopes to feel good, and I’ve been feeling good on the bike.
“When you have a long break during the winter but just a few weeks without riding, and you come back on a MotoGP bike, for me the differences were even bigger [going] from the Ducati to the Honda [the first time].
He added: “At the moment all is good. And things have also been moving in Honda to get this different approach. I would say I’m lucky to have arrived in the good time of these changes.”