Final practice for last weekend’s Portimao MotoGP finale saw Johann Zarco pull onto the run-off area towards the end of the lap, with smoke emitting from his Avintia Ducati.
But Zarco’s decision to then cross the track and enter pit lane raised eyebrows, with Aleix Espargaro subsequently criticising both the Frenchman and Race Direction.
Once again good job of race direction by no putting any sanction to a MotoGP rider after crossing the track with broke engine smiking oil… Incredible!
— Aleix Espargar (@AleixEspargaro) November 21, 2020
Speaking after the race, Zarco insisted he knew immediately what the bike problem had been and was certain he was not dropping fluid.
“I knew what the problem was and that I wasn’t losing oil,” Zarco said. “Maybe there are some riders that don’t know about mechanics, so they sometimes do things because they don’t know what’s happened. Me, I totally knew what was going on, so I knew I was not losing oil. That’s why I took this decision [to cross].
“They all think I’m doing things without thinking, but I’m thinking more than they think.”
Drama for @JohannZarco1!
— MotoGP (@MotoGP) November 21, 2020
But Espargaro was far from convinced.
“How can he know that there was not oil?” said the Spaniard. “When the bike smokes you don’t know what it is. But the problem is Johann Zarco is always the same. He never learns.
“It’s not that I have anything against him but when you see smoke from your bike, you cannot cross in a fourth gear full-throttle corner at close to 200k per hour. Because if somebody came behind and was a little bit of oil or even water, this guy can die. It’s about responsibility.
“But it looks like this guy doesn’t care anything about his mates.”
No action was taken by Race Direction in Portimao, but Zarco previously received a long-lap penalty for contact with Pol Espargaro in Brno, then a pit-lane start for the terrifying tangle with Franco Morbidelli in Austria.
On both occasions, Zarco said he sought to meet other riders face-to-face and suggested Aleix Espargaro should do the same.
“When they were all angry against me [in Austria] I went into the Safety Commission and no one was speaking,” Zarco said. “They can say a lot of things but when you are in front of them they don’t say anything.
“So I think this is typical from Aleix. And if he has a problem with me, he should come to me and we could speak well. But he doesn’t. I did it with Pol after the Czech Republic, and from that moment at least – we were not agreed – but at least we could speak.”
Zarco went on to qualify in seventh place and finished his final race for Avintia in tenth. The #5 will join Pramac Ducati for 2021.