The scoop is out and it involves Johann Zarco, probably one of the most talked about riders of this 2019 and not for his sporting merits. The French rider is about to get back on the bike, and in the race, much earlier than expected and, specifically, at Phillip Island. The indiscretion leaked out by motorsport.com was confirmed by Moto Journal. Honda will be giving Johann a chance, but the LCR team will have to do without Takaaki Nakagami, who has held the title for the last three world championship races.
This is not a sporting choice, but the consequence of the decision reached by the Japanese rider, who must undergo the same surgery as Marc Marquez did last December, to reinforce his shoulder joint. The recovery time needed for this kind of surgery convinced Cal Crutchlow's current teammate to anticipate the operation so that he could be ready for the start of the 2020 season.
In fact, Nakagami has a valid contract for next season so, at the moment, he's definitely with Honda. However, it appears obvious that putting Zarco on a Honda at this time of the season could also be a rehearsal for recruiting the French rider in HRC. Many think that the relationship between Lorenzo and Honda has deteriorated completely and that living another season in these conditions would be impossible for both. If the two should part, Zarco could represent a very sensible choice for Honda as Marc Marquez's teammate.
The KTM would obviously not object to this agreement, with Pit Beirer who has repeatedly stated that he's available to let Zarco go before the end of the season, both with regard to racing, as well as being a tester in one of the competing teams.
From a certain point of view, the only one that could be slightly damaged by Zarco's full-time entry into Honda would be Yamaha, which showed enormous interest in the French rider as a tester, replacing the disappointing Jonas Folger, and that decided to move a figure as important as Silvano Galbusera for 2020 to the test team, in order to consolidate it. Losing the chance of taking on what was probably Lin Jarvis' first choice for the role of tester could be a problem for the Iwata team.
The French rider never stopped training and has always declared to be more than ready for a possible call to get back on track, even this season. Crutchlow had warned him about the difficulties of the current Honda, a motorcycle that is definitely not easy to take to the limit, as we were able to see by the grim season that was had by riders like Crutchlow, Lorenzo, and Nakagami . Phillip Island, Sepang, and Valencia: in short, these three races could be an enormous opportunity for Zarco, but also a potentially huge problem.