With the 2017 MotoGP season behind us I’ve been thinking about who I’d vote for rider of the year. I tend to steer clear of the factory riders because when you have truckloads of people getting you around the track as quickly as humanly possible you should be at the sharp end of the championship. There are exceptions to that, like Marc Marquez in 2014, when a rider seems to be in a class of one, but this year that didn’t happen.
It was a scrappy season with many leaders in the championship. What first looked like a runaway by Yamaha’s new rider Maverick Viñales turned into a season long fight between Marquez on an ever improving Honda that only he seemed able to ride and Andrea Dovizioso on a Ducati he has stuck with and helped develop into a race winning weapon. At various points in the season Yamaha, Honda and Ducati all led the championship.
As exciting as all that was the rider of the year for me was Johann Zarco. In his first MotoGP race he leapt into the lead and although he didn’t last there very long it made a huge splash. While the top riders are making big bucks and have dozens of support people, Zarco, a rookie in a small, private team using last year’s bike and making a fraction of the money ended up being the only Yamaha rider fighting for wins by the end of the season. Marquez’ mum wasn’t begging anyone else to not do to her son what he does to everyone else.
That’s another reason why I like Zarco, he’s an odd duck. He doesn’t play the whining in the media game many of the top riders do, he just gets on with the job without the retinues, fancy sunglasses and stylists. He’s known for spending his time in the pits with his crew and sleeping in the truck. At each race he sorted out the bike and then got into the mix. While riders like Marquez (with a long history of crashing and general nonsense) whined about Zarco’s ‘aggressive riding style’, Zarco just shrugged and did the business, on a year old bike, for a fraction of the money, with a fraction of the support. That’s why he’s my rider of 2017. I look forward to him giving the big money riders some more grief in 2018. Hopefully they won’t whine about it quite so much, but I wouldn’t count on it.
I went looking for some TechTrois / Zarco kit, but it’s sadly lacking. There is a photo of Johann at full lean on the Tech3 bike – I’ve pulled the colours out of it so it could go on any coloured shirt as an outline. Between that and his logo, you’d have a nice bit of custom shirtery that celebrates the warrior monk of MotoGP.
Here’s the link to it on Zazzle. Below is the image and the graphic I pulled out of it if you want to DIY up something.