Zarco on pole for Japan GP after qualifying fastest
MotoGP rookie Johann Zarco will start on the front row for the second time this season after starring late during qualifying for the Japan Grand Prix.
In wet and testing conditions at Motegi, Frenchman Zarco pipped Danilo Petrucci and reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez to pole with a time of one minute, 1.53.469 seconds on Saturday.
Honda star and defending Japan GP champion Marquez appeared set to top qualifying after setting the quickest time of the weekend during the fourth free practice session, moving 1.8 secs clear of the chasing pack.
But Marquez's decision to opt for slick tyres for Q2 backfired as Tech 3 Yamaha's Zarco topped the standings with a minute to go and never looked back, with the championship leader forced to start from third behind Petrucci on Sunday.
"When I began with the soft the feeling was not bad. Just something was missing," said Zarco, who also earned pole at the Dutch GP.
"I thought about putting on the slick but I didn't in the end. We were ready to fight. It's a good emotion. The second pole position in my rookie season. It's great for motivation."
Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi also made the same error as rival Marquez, having switched to slicks.
Rossi, who was involved in a crash in FP4, could only manage 12th position as Aleix Espargaro and Jorge Lorenzo rounded out the top five.
Title contender Maverick Vinales was eliminated in Q1, while Pol Espargaro - who topped the first qualifying segment - finished eighth fastest.
1. Johann Zarco (Movistar Yamaha) 1:53.4692
2. Danilo Petrucci (OCTO Pramac Racing) +0.318s
3. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.434s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) +0.478s
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) +0.766s
6. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) +0.873s
7. Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +1.403s
8. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +1.437s
9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) +1.595s
10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +2.014s