LCR MotoGP team boss says he surprised Honda with Zarco idea

LCR MotoGP boss Lucio Cecchinello says Honda was "surprised" by his idea to call up ousted KTM rider Johann Zarco to replace Takaaki Nakagami for 2019's final three races

LCR MotoGP team boss says he surprised Honda with Zarco idea

Autosport revealed last week that Nakagami would be undergoing surgery on a shoulder injury after his home race in Japan this weekend, and would be replaced by Zarco for the Australian, Malaysian and Valencia Grands Prix - with that news officially confirmed on Wednesday.

Zarco was dropped from KTM's line-up with immediate effect following last month's Misano race, having already asked for his two-year deal to be terminated early amid a tough season.

Cecchinello admits HRC test rider Stefan Bradl - who filled in for an injured Cal Crutchlow at the team for the final two races of last year - was his first choice, but development duties with the 2020 bike ruled Bradl out and meant the Zarco possibility arose.

"Of course, test rider Stefan Bradl was our first option," Cecchinello said at Motegi on Thursday.

"When we discussed with HRC about the possibility to have Bradl as a replacement rider, they unfortunately told me that he has a very busy schedule with the development of the new bike.

"He wouldn't be available for certain for the Malaysia race, which is very important for our sponsor, for Idemitsu, for other sponsors.

"We finally understood with Honda that Bradl was not an option, so who else?

"As a manager, I need a professional rider who is able to jump on the bike and do a correct job without taking too many risks because it is dangerous as well to put a young kid on this bike.

"So thinking about a professional rider, I came up with the idea of Zarco.

"Before contacting him I talked with Honda and Honda was a little bit surprised, but after a couple of hours they said 'OK, go and try to ask him'."

It is thought Honda has seen this as an opportunity to evaluate Zarco as a potential replacement for the struggling Jorge Lorenzo at the works team next year.

Lorenzo's future remains uncertain despite committing to seeing out his contract following a brief link to a Ducati return with Pramac during the Austrian GP weekend in August.

Zarco was also thought to be close to signing a deal with Yamaha to join its test team, though it is unclear where this lies now.

With both LCR riders out of contract at the end of next year, Cecchinello admits Zarco "can be an option".

"Definitely he is a competitive rider," he added.

"I mean he is a two times world champion in Moto2, he showed to be competitive in the MotoGP class doing a very good 2018 season, rookie of the year [in 2017].

"I believe that we are looking for riders because the market in 2020 will be open for the 2021 season.

"So let's say that can be an option even for our team in case Cal will decide [to retire] or we'll not find an agreement with Cal."

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