Johann Zarco says his record pole position at his home round came as a surprise while being washed over by emotion as he turns attention to a potential maiden MotoGP win.

Zarco’s second pole of the 2018 MotoGP campaign made history as he became the first French rider to secure pole position at his home round in the premier class for 30 years following Christian Sarron achieving the feat at Paul Ricard in 1988.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider produced a lap record at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit with 1m 31.185s to grab pole ahead of MotoGP world championship leader Marc Marquez by one-tenth and notch up his ninth consecutive MotoGP front row start. The French rider, who secured his maiden premier class podium 12 months ago at Le Mans, admits his feelings after taking pole were overwhelming in front of his home fans.

“It feels great and it’s very emotional for me,” Zarco said. “I didn’t expect to have these emotions already during qualifying here. When I saw the 31.185 on the dashboard I was surprised.

“The first run was already quite good, but I felt that the new tyre can deliver even more on the first lap, so I tried it for the second exit and it worked well. The job we did, working with different tyres, is amazing.

“A huge thank you to the crowd here, because they gave me a lot of positive energy. Let’s see, if this energy is enough to win tomorrow.”

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Given Le Mans has been a happy hunting ground for Yamaha in recent seasons, with three consecutive 1-2 finishes for the Japanese brand at the track, Zarco feels he has a stronger chance for a first MotoGP victory compared to recent races but sees Marquez has a key contender due to his race pace from practice.

“I am happy that we are working well and here it is easier to find the pace compared to other tracks because we don’t feel a big drop on the tyres,” he said. “It can be an advantage for the Yamaha guys that we are not struggling with that.

“Marc is the strong guy at the moment but we cannot expect someone stronger than the other one. I will just go and try to lead the race which would be good at the beginning in order to have less risks in the group and then see what happens fighting for the victory. Every weekend I feel more chance to catch the victory.”

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