Qatar MotoGP: Zarco beats lap record to grab pole

Tech 3 Yamaha's Johann Zarco took pole position for the opening round of the 2018 MotoGP season at Qatar, establishing a new lap record by almost a quarter of a second.

Qatar MotoGP: Zarco beats lap record to grab pole
Top 3 after Qualifying: Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, Danilo Petrucci, Pramac Racing
Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team
Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Hafizh Syahrin, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Zarco's best laptime of 1m53.680s beat the existing record of Jorge Lorenzo set in 2008 by 0.247s, and gave him his third premier class pole by 0.202s ahead of reigning champion Marc Marquez's Honda.

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 works Ducati.

Dovizioso looked good for pole heading into the final stages, but was shunted down to fifth in the final order amid a late flurry of improvements led by Zarco and Marquez.

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, while LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow edged out Dovizioso for fourth by two thousandths.

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.

His teammate Maverick Vinales was slowest of all in Q2 and the only rider not to get within a second of Zarco, and will start 12th - behind Lorenzo's Ducati, Jack Miller on the second Pramac machine and Andrea Iannone's Suzuki.

Q1: Miller edges Vinales

While Vinales was the highest-profile rider having to make his way through Q1, his benchmark lap of 1m54.637s was beaten in the dying stages of the session by Miller.

The Pramac rider had already established himself in second when he logged a time just 0.003s faster than Vinales at the chequered flag.

Just missing out on advancing to Q2 was Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, who'll head up the fifth row ahead of leading rookie Franco Morbidelli (Marc VDS Honda) and an impressive Hafizh Syharin on the second Tech 3 Yamaha.

Scott Redding will make his debut for Aprilia starting 18th, one place behind Avintia Ducati's Tito Rabat.

Both KTM riders suffered problems, with Bradley Smith 20th after his RC16 stopped on the way out of the pits. Pol Espargaro was 22nd after hitting similar issues.

LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami could do no better than 23rd after a crash in FP4 just before qualifying.

Q2 results:

Pos.#RiderBikeTimeGap
1 5 france Johann Zarco  Yamaha 1'53.680  
2 93 spain Marc Marquez  Honda 1'53.882 0.202
3 9 italy Danilo Petrucci  Ducati 1'53.887 0.207
4 35 united_kingdom Cal Crutchlow  Honda 1'54.072 0.392
5 4 italy Andrea Dovizioso  Ducati 1'54.074 0.394
6 42 spain Alex Rins  Suzuki 1'54.339 0.659
7 26 spain Dani Pedrosa  Honda 1'54.368 0.688
8 46 italy Valentino Rossi  Yamaha 1'54.389 0.709
9 99 spain Jorge Lorenzo  Ducati 1'54.431 0.751
10 43 australia Jack Miller  Ducati 1'54.449 0.769
11 29 italy Andrea Iannone  Suzuki 1'54.619 0.939
12 25 spain Maverick Viñales  Yamaha 1'54.707 1.027

Q1 results:

Pos.#RiderBikeTimeGap
Q2 43 australia Jack Miller  Ducati 1'54.634  
Q2 25 spain Maverick Viñales  Yamaha 1'54.637 0.003
13 41 spain Aleix Espargaro  Aprilia 1'55.140 0.506
14 21 italy Franco Morbidelli  Honda 1'55.169 0.535
15 55 malaysia Hafizh Syahrin  Yamaha 1'55.258 0.624
16 53 spain Tito Rabat  Ducati 1'55.273 0.639
17 45 united_kingdom Scott Redding  Aprilia 1'55.380 0.746
18 12 switzerland Thomas Luthi  Honda 1'55.381 0.747
19 17 czech_republic Karel Abraham  Ducati 1'55.392 0.758
20 38 united_kingdom Bradley Smith  KTM 1'55.553 0.919
21 19 spain Alvaro Bautista  Ducati 1'55.638 1.004
22 44 spain Pol Espargaro  KTM 1'55.706 1.072
23 30 japan Takaaki Nakagami  Honda 1'56.401 1.767
24 10 belgium Xavier Simeon  Ducati 1'56.545 1.911
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