Don’t get us wrong, we love a road trip as much as the next guy but if you’re going to be spending your weekend on the limit of pin-point accuracy at high speed rubbing elbows with the best of their ilk in the world, then we would probably accept a flight with extra legroom as transportation.
However, Johann Zarco isn’t your average international motorcycle racing star, so when the opportunity arose to complete a trip by road between Italy and Motorland Aragon in Alcaniz, Spain – a journey of almost 1,000km – then he jumped at the opportunity.
His steed? Well, what would be the fun in munching the miles on a Ducati Multistrada? Instead, Zarco picked up a pristine restored 1981 Ducati 900 SS Darmah, strapped on his Pramac Racing leathers and got on his way, his journey taking in the Alps en route to his home in Andorra and then down onto Spain’s wide, sweeping highways.
“It was the idea of the team. They were planning it for a few months,” Zarco explained. “They knew they had to start in Italy, crossing the Alps, going to Andorra, pick up Jack and go to Aragon.
“Finally Jack didn’t come because he had something to do in Aragon. But when I heard about it, I said ‘I’ll join you because you’re crossing not far from my home’. And it would be nice to go with you.
“The plan was to go with the Multistrada. But they were joking saying we weren’t allowed to come with a bike over the year 2000. They were keeping this joke. I sent this photo of the old Ducati.
“They said ‘if you are a man, you will come with it’. And because I am a bit stupid, I said I will!”
Flanked by friends who subsequently hit problems over the lengthy journey, Zarco’s adventure caught the imagination of those around him.
“The first night was funny because the hotel gave us their garage to put all our old bikes in. After dinner one bike already had a problem. It was a BMW, not mine. Shame on the guy that came with a BMW and got a problem! They worked until 1am to fix the problem. I went to bed a little bit earlier.
“Then the bike got the problem again the next day after maybe 200km. Because we were in France, I could fix everything and arrange enough people to take the bike so the Italian didn’t have any worry to bring the bike home.
“But the second day was a bit too long. We did 500km. 7h 30m on the bike. We left at 8.40 and arrived at 6.30. This was a bit long. But always fun. An adventure.
“Then the last 200km in Spain and we know well the road. Looks like desert but a bit too long. It looks very nice but you have very long straights. There are turns but you have to go fast to enjoy the turns. The group of 10 riders were not going fast enough to enjoy these corners in Spain. But it was good.
“It’s funny in the paddock so many guys, old mechanics, guys I didn’t speak with in ten years, are telling me, ‘good job Zarco!’ So this is fun. I didn’t do it for this. But I can see I touched many people, I gave pleasure to many people to have the courage to go with this old bike.
“I have to say I was worried. When I got the bike and did the first 30km to bring the bike home, I said ‘when I say something, I do it’ but I was worried because I thought this one was maybe a mistake!”