Johann Zarco has downplayed his chances of winning the Qatar MotoGP season opener despite taking pole position with a record-breaking lap in qualifying.
The Tech 3 Yamaha rider beat Jorge Lorenzo's 2008 lap record at the end of a thrilling shootout at the Losail circuit, beating Marc Marquez to take his third premier class pole by two tenths of a second.
Zarco also comfortably beat works Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, who could manage no better than eighth and 12th on the grid respectively.
Despite his one-lap speed, Zarco said he didn't think he will be able to convert his starting position into a maiden MotoGP win, unless he makes a step forward in race trim during warm-up on Sunday.
"I was happy to have some reference on the lap before, but then I say I have to try it, do it, and I was surprised at the finish line to see the laptime," he recalled. "Just fantastic. Good to be on pole position.
"It doesn’t mean anything for the race, just a good start and a good opportunity. At the moment I think I don’t have the pace for the victory, but why not tomorrow find it [in warm-up] and go for it?"
He added: "On Friday I was like the old Zarco, the one when he starts to slide he gets nervous and he screams.
"But then in FP3 we just did a few things on the bike to give me this feeling from the test, and from that I could work on myself, go and just repeat the laptime from yesterday with the big wind.
"This gave me confidence. Just the crash in FP4 has been the weak point of the weekend, but it’s an important [session] because it’s the one for the race."
Zarco used a medium front and soft rear tyre for his best lap, and said the choice of medium front - as opposed to the softs used by Rossi and Vinales - was critical to his performance.
"Compared with the other two Yamahas, maybe it was the key to be faster," he said. "But since Friday it was my feeling to be faster with the medium [front], and also since the test.
"That’s why I didn’t want to slow down too much. I felt good and I knew that if I kept pushing at least for a few laps, it was going to work well."