Johann Zarco has described his third career MotoGP pole position as “a good opportunity” to attack the 2018 season opener in Qatar but fears he may lack the outright race pace to battle for a maiden premier class win.

12 months ago the Tech3 Yamaha rider threatened to produce a shock debut performance at the Losail International Circuit after bolting into the lead in the opening stages before pulling away but ultimately crashed out ahead of his fellow front-runners.

Zarco’s off marked his only DNF of his rookie MotoGP season and eager to make amends the French rider clinched the first pole position of 2018 with a new pole lap record of 1m 53.680s to beat Jorge Lorenzo’s 10-year record.

After a front-end fall midway through the final free practice session, Zarco says he feared he had ruined his shot in qualifying and concedes his pole position came as a surprise.

“After the crash I am normally not the kind of rider to crash and then go very fast afterwards, really I was wondering what can I do during qualifying,” Zarco said. “When I began qualifying with the new tyre I felt good on the bike so I did a lap to get a reference for qualifying and then with the second tyre I tried to do more.

“I got one lap behind Dovizioso and Iannone and we started together for four corners and then they began to slow down. I was behind but kept pushing and to keep my tyres warm and then everybody was waiting because nobody wanted to go at the front so I was in front with nobody.

“It was a big surprise when I got to the finish to see my lap time, it was fantastic and I’m happy. It is good to be on pole position but it doesn’t mean anything for the race just a good opportunity for the start.”

Having preferred Michelin’s medium tyre in Qatar, Zarco is intrigued to see his rivals’ race pace but admits his Tech3 Yamaha might not have the consistency on a used tyre towards the end of the race to keep with the front-runners.

“At the moment with my pace I don’t think I have the pace for victory but why not find it tomorrow and go for it,” he said. “In FP3 we did a few things on the bike to give me the same feeling from the test and from that I could work on myself, go and repeat yesterday’s lap time with the big winds which gave me confidence.

“Compared to the other two Yamahas maybe it was the key to be faster but since Friday my feeling is better with the medium tyre, also since the test, so I didn’t want to slow down too much. I felt good and I knew if I kept pushing for a few laps it was going to work well so it could be the key.”


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