Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco will ride at the Suzuka 8 Hour race this year for Suzuki, as he attempts to set himself up for a factory MotoGP ride with the firm for 2017.
He admitted in the press conference for his home race that a ride for the factory is the end game to his decision – which will also involve a chance to test the GSX-RR machine while in Japan.
“I’ve never been to Suzuka, but I like to train with road bikes, I have good feelings on them, and it’ll be good to try the race and be a part of Suzuki. My plan is to do well and to try and be a part of Suzuki for 2017; I need to prove what I can do to take the dream to go to MotoGP.
“I have a plan to test with Suzuki – but that doesn’t mean that I have a place with them just yet. But for sure, the plan is not to be with another brand for the next year – although now that Valentino has signed a two-year deal, I’m in no hurry; my dream is to one day race him!”
It’s not yet confirmed who Zarco’s teammates will be, or indeed even what team he will join. But it’s likely that he will join the factory-supported Yoshimura squad on what could well be the new GSX-R1000’s first race outing.
And a familiar face to British fans could well be in line to join him, in the shape of three-time MCE British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari. One of the most successful Suzuki riders ever, and currently riding for the team in BSB, Kiyonari returned to the famous race last year with Yuki Kagayama’s satellite team to take a podium finish.