Born in Cannes (France) in 1990, Johann Zarco’s passion for motorcycles began as a child. A meeting with Laurent Fellon, an expert in the world of motorcycle racing, was instrumental in launching his career. In 2003 he debuted in the Italian Pocket Bike series, as well as participating in various championships in Italy and Europe. In his first year of competition he finished fourth at the Pocket Bike European Championship in the Junior C category and during two years (2005 and 2006) he placed second in Europe in the Pocket Bike Mini Junior and Senior Open classes.
In 2007 the Frenchman was selected to participate in the prestigious Red Bull Rookies Cup, one of the most important promotional series and a stepping stone to the World Championship. After four wins and three podiums, Zarco became the series’ first champion and the only French rider to date to win the title. In 2008 he returned to the Italian Championship, where he won the two rounds at Vallelunga.
Training under the guidance of coach Fellon, Zarco rode at a test in Hungary in front of former 125cc World Champion, Gabor Talmacsi. Impressed with the youngster’s talent, Talmacsi helped open the doors to Grand Prix Racing for him and in 2009 he entered the 125cc World Championship.
His first two seasons were used for adapting and he earned 20th place in the overall standings for his rookie year, then 11th in his second campaign. In 2011 he was picked up by Aki Ajo to join the Avant-Air Asia Ajo squad, and with this new team Zarco enjoyed one of the best years of his career to date. Scoring 262 points, he claimed 11 podiums and the first win of his career at the Japanese Grand Prix.
In 2012 the Frenchman made the move to Moto2, managing to place in the top 10 overall and win the Rookie of the Year award. The following year he scored his first two podiums in the intermediate category in Italy and Valencia.
In 2014 he took 4 third places –at Catalonia, San Marino, Aragon and Valencia– and placed sixth in the final standings onboard a Suter. For 2015, Aki Ajo brought him back to Ajo Motorsport for the structure’s new venture in the category, riding with last year’s Moto2 title-winning chassis manufacturer, Kalex.
2015 season was Zarco’s seventh in the World Campionship and fourth in Moto2. After finishing eighth in the first race due to a mechanical problem that ruled him out of victory, he placed on the podium at the next 12 rounds, taking his first wins in the category (Argentina, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Great Britain and San Marino) along the way.
A sixth place at the Aragon GP took him closer still to the title, which finally arrived at Motegi (Japan) on the opening day. Title rival Tito Rabat was forced to pull out of the event through injury after the first practice session, meaning nobody could catch Zarco in the title chase.
The 2016 season started with a clear goal for Johann Zarco: To defend his title and become the first double Moto2 World Champion since the class’ inception in 2010. The beginning of the year was difficult, with only one win (in Argentina) and a podium (at Austin) in the first five races, as well as his failing to place in the points at his home GP in France. The reaction came at Mugello, where he would begin a run of four wins -Italy, Catalonia, Germany and Austria- and a further podium at Assen, to take the series lead. He would not relinquish the position from then on. His dream came true during the Asian flyaways, in which he placed on the podium in Japan, claimed four points in Australia and won in Malaysia. The Ajo Motorsport rider was thus proclaimed Moto2 World Champion for the second time with the Finnish structure, also becoming the best French rider of all time.