MotoGP Brno: Zarco bags surprise pole as Quartararo crashes

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Avintia Ducati’s Johann Zarco took a surprise MotoGP pole position at Brno this lunchtime, nicking it from fellow Frenchman Fabio Quartararo who crashed on his last lap.

Zarco, who is on a year-old Desmosedici, set a 1’55.687 on a hard front/soft rear combination which was enough to ensure he was three-tenths faster than Quartararo on the Petronas Yamaha.

The championship leader was on a personal best lap trying to claw his way back to top spot but pushed too hard. Franco Morbidelli bagged the final front-row spot after Pol Espargaro’s best was deleted for breaking yellow flag rules.

Before Q2 got underway, there was plenty to talk about in Q1. There may be some happy Ducati personnel in and around the Esponsorama Racing box, but it won’t be the same on either Andrea Dovizioso or Jack Miller’s side of the garages. The duo were unable to make it out of Q1 and will start from a disappointing P18 and P14 respectively.

A handful of minutes later the first laps in the second qualifying session came flying in and it was Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who crossed the line first with a 1’56.6, with teammate Valentino Rossi pretty much matching the Spaniard’s time to slot into P2 ahead of Morbidelli.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Espargaro then blitzed the lot of them to go top with a 1’56.1 but the KTM star wouldn’t stay at the summit long, with Quartararo setting the first 1:55 of the weekend – a 1:55.990.

And hooked onto the tailpipes of the Championship leader was Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard ran slightly wide at turn 13 but managed to get a good banker lap in, but his second flying lap was even better.

Quartararo, a couple of bike lengths ahead, was on a fast lap but didn’t quite go faster than his first lap, but Espargaro did and put himself into provisional second.

Viñales was looking at getting onto the front row and the number 12 did exactly that on his next flyer, P3 for the man second in the Championship standings but there was more drama to come.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) went sixth on his opening fast lap but ahead of him on track were a gaggle of riders all setting red first sector times. Morbidelli, Rossi, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Zarco were all in close proximity, with the latter going faster than everyone. Halfway round, Morbidelli – spearheading the group – was under his team-mate’s time by two tenths, but Zarco was three-tenths up.

Coming across the line Morbidelli was unable to hold his advantage but Zarco did. The Frenchman flew to the top of the time screens to sit on an unreal provisional pole position, with Pol Espargaro going P2 with a stunning lap – however, that would later get chalked off due to the KTM rider setting it when passing yellow flags for Cal Crutchlow’s (LCR Honda Castrol) Turn 9 crash.

However, it wasn’t done. Quartararo had one lap to try and grab his fifth consecutive pole position and giving his YZR-M1 a little tap coming up horsepower hill, you knew that this was going to be a screen-biter.

Quartararo was on a personal best lap but he was down by over a tenth of Zarco’s lap, 0.134 was the deficit halfway round. and then Quartararo found himself sliding into the gravel. El Diablo was down at the notorious Turn 13, unhurt, which meant pole position was Zarco’s..

Aleix Espargaro gave Aprilia their best-ever MotoGP qualifying in fourth as Spaniards fill the second row. Vinales encountered some sort of issue at the end of qualifying and couldn’t get back out in time for a final flying lap, so the title chaser had to settle for P5.

KTM’s Binder will front the third row of the grid in P7 a tenth and a half adrift of Pol Espargaro after coming through Q1 – benefitting from Takaaki Nakagami’scancelled lap time – to lead Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in P8 and P9.

Rossi will be slightly disappointed with a P10 starting position after showing signs that he can mix it for the front row during practice, The Doctor is on row 4 alongside Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Crutchlow. The latter duo are still riding with injuries sustained in Jerez, so P11 and P12 is a heroic effort from the Spaniard and British rider.

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