Having taken a tumble during the final practice session, Johann Zarco threw caution to the wind in qualifying as the Frenchman grabbed pole position in stunning fashion for today’s Grand Prix of Qatar.
At the Losail International Circuit last evening, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider set the track on fire as he smashed Jorge Lorenzo’s ten-year-old lap record.
Zarco showed why he his highly-rated as the 25-year-old produced best lap time of 1:53.680 seconds. The eye-catching lap beat the previous record of Lorenzo set in 2008 by 0.247s.
It was his third premier class pole by 0.202s ahead of reigning champion Marc Marquez’s Honda. Danilo Petrucci set a lap just 0.005s slower than Marquez to take the final spot on the front row and end up the best of the Ducati runners on his Pramac-run GP18.
Zarco later said the crash in practice was not on his mind as he went for broke in the qualifying 2. “I am pretty happy, it’s the best way to start the season,” said Zarco.
“I had a crash on FP4 but I didn’t have any doubts over that crash. It’s not funny to be down before qualifying. But then I knew that with a new tyre and light bike I was feeling good. Since this morning, I got back my feeling that I had during the test. And to beat the lap record, that makes me really happy,” he added.
The 2015 Moto2 champion admitted, despite being on front, a victory under lights was not a guarantee. But starting from pole position would give him a best chance to stand on top of the podium.
“Tomorrow is the main thing. I will try to win, try to be on the podium. It looks the pace is not the best one, but at least to start from pole is the best chance to catch a good result,” Zarco said.
Marquez was quickest on the first runs and led on a 1m54.368s, but was then knocked off the top spot by Andrea Dovizioso, who set a 1m54.074s on his Ducati.
Dovizioso impressed the most in the practice session and looked good for pole heading into the final stages. But the Italian was shunted down to fifth in the final order amid a late flurry of improvements led by Zarco and Marquez.
“I am happy because normally in Qatar I have struggled quite a lot. My target was to try and be on the front row. I feel like I am on pole position,” said Marquez.
“Johann was riding amazing, I follow him, he was one step in front of us. But anyway tomorrow the race is long, many laps, time to be constant and try to manage,” the 22-year-old Spaniard added.
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow too got the better of Dovizioso for fourth place. Alex Rins completed the second row on the best of the Suzukis behind Dovizioso, ahead of Dani Pedrosa’s Honda and Valentino Rossi, who was 0.709s off the pace on the quicker of the two works Yamahas.
Meanwhile, Marc VDS’ Alex Marquez claimed the pole in Moto2 ahead of Pons rider Lorenzo Baldassarri. In Moto3, SIC58 Squadra Corse rider Nico Antonelli will start from the front after setting a fastest lap by just a thousandth of a second.
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