MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Johann Zarco completes his MotoGP resurrection
A few years ago Johann Zarco climbed to the dizziest heights and then crashed and burned in 2019. Now he’s the leader of the 2021 MotoGP world championship. It’s been quite a journey…
Sunday’s race may have been a heart-pumping 220mph dogfight but my highlight of the night was watching winner Fabio Quartararo giggling atop the podium, while runner-up Johann Zarco sang along to La Marseillaise.
Modern motor sport podiums can be humdrum affairs, as riders and drivers crunch the numbers through their brains, preparing for lengthy debriefs with armies of technical staff. They’ve had their fun, now the real work begins.
Sunday was different. Quartararo and Zarco made history – the first French one-two in MotoGP and the first time two Frenchmen had stood on a premier-class podium since 1954, when Pierre Monneret and Jacques Collot finished first and third in the French GP around the Reims street circuit.
That was so long ago – in 1954 Winston Churchill was British prime minister and Elvis Presley released his first record – that 21-year-old Quartararo couldn’t quite get his head around it.
“Honestly, in 1994 I wasn’t even planning to be here – I was born five years later,” he said, answering a question about the Monneret/Collot feat during the post-race media conference.
“No!” laughed 30-year-old Zarco. “It was 1954, even your daddy wasn’t born!”
“Ah, so, err, we’ve made some history,” grinned the race winner. “I feel proud for France and I think Johann does too.”
This race was more significant for Zarco than for Quartararo, because it completed his resurrection as a racer, from a potentially career-ending decision in August 2019 to MotoGP world championship leader in April 2021. And on Easter Sunday too.
Zarco has changed hugely in the past couple of years. When he was on the way up he was always terribly serious. Perhaps this is what happens when you leave home as a teenager to live with your mentor and manager who is so determined to mould you into a world champion that he doesn’t want you to have a girlfriend.
No wonder someone nicknamed him ‘the warrior monk’.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.