Zarco pips Marquez to pole at Le Mans MotoGP

2018-05-19 15:22
Johann Zarco (Getty Images)

Le Mans - Frenchman Johann Zarco is hoping record-setting speed on Le Mans' Bugatti circuit is enough to seal a maiden MotoGP win after he powered to pole position on Saturday.

Zarco, who has secured a contract with KTM next season on the back of a lightning start in motorcycling's queen category, set a new lap record of 1:31.185 on his way to pipping reigning world champion Marc Marquez to first place on the grid.

Championship leader Marquez, on a Honda, finished second with Italian Danilo Petrucci, on a Ducati, in third.

Zarco, voted rookie of the year after his maiden MotoGP season last year, is still looking for his maiden victory in the category.

But a year after climbing on to the podium for the first time in the category at Le Mans, the 27-year-old underlined his readiness to end his MotoGP victory drought.

"It's unbelievable, an amazing feeling," said Zarco.

"I didn't expect to be so good out there. I'm surprised at how fast I went, I couldn't really believe it when I looked up at the times.

"A big thanks to the fans because they gave me a huge boost. We'll see tomorrow if it's enough for victory."

A maiden win on Sunday would underpin the promise that Zarco has shown throughout this early part of the campaign.

He finished runner-up in Argentina and, more recently, Spain to sit second in the world championship standings at just 12 points behind Marquez.

On the second row Italians Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), who had set a track record in free practice on Friday, will joust with Spain's Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) for the early positions.

Australian Jack Miller (Ducati Pramac) and Yamaha pair Maverick Vinales of Spain and Italy's seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi are on the third row.

Britain's Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), who won in Argentina, suffered a heavy crash earlier in qualifying.

Starting grid for the French MotoGP, to be held on the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans on Sunday:

First row

1. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha Tech3) 1min 31.185sec, 2. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) at 0.108sec, 3. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati Pramac) 0.196

Second row

4. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Suzuki) 0.269, 5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.368, 6. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Ducati) 0.405 

Third row

7. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati Pramac) 0.498, 8. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.599, 9. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.715

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