Johann Zarco’s dramatic 2019 MotoGP season took another twist this week, as LCR Honda announced he would be joining the team for the final three races of the year.
That deal, revealed by Autosport last week, arose after LCR announced its regular rider Takaaki Nakagami will be undergoing an operation on a shoulder injury after his home race of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
Zarco, who was dumped from KTM’s line-up following the Misano race – having already asked to get out of his two-year deal with the team in August amid a difficult campaign – will take over Nakagami’s 2018-spec RC213V in a strictly temporary deal as the Japanese rider has been re-signed for 2020.
On the face of it, this is Honda and LCR looking at the best available option to do a good job as Nakagami’s replacement.
But this move is also being seen as Honda’s way of evaluating Zarco – who it wanted for its 2019 line-up originally – as a potential replacement for the struggling Jorge Lorenzo next year.
Motorsport.com’s Global MotoGP editor Oriol Puigdemont and Autosport’s Motorcycle Racing Correspondent Lewis Duncan discuss the thinking behind this in the latest edition of the Tank Slappers podcast and ponder Zarco’s hopes of realistically making it onto the grid full-time next year.
They also ask if Zarco will force more performance out of Lorenzo, and indeed whether Honda has brought Zarco in to put pressure on Lorenzo and perhaps force him to decide to call time on his HRC career a year early.
The Tank Slappers podcast is Autosport and the Motorsport Network’s podcast for all things two-wheeled, and can be found on Apple Podcasts via iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify – simply search for ‘Tank Slappers’.