Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco thanked his team following a dramatic turnaround as the French rider qualified second fastest at Sepang in Malaysia.

Zarco was downbeat after free practice on Friday as he struggled with the rear of his YZR-M1, but the Independent rider cut a much happier figure on Saturday as he put the Yamaha on the front row between pole man Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, who was third fastest on the factory Movistar Yamaha in a wet Q2.

Now, Zarco is hopeful he can repeat his 2017 feat of finishing on the rostrum at Sepang, regardless of the conditions on Sunday.

“It would be nice to be on the podium tomorrow. It looks like we can have the dry conditions tomorrow in the race and in this case I can be competitive,” said Zarco, who was half-a-second down on Marquez after setting his best lap in 2m 12.709s.

“On Friday, I struggled and I was not able to manage the bike, to control it well – too much spin. I was worried because maybe I thought we cannot find a solution, but we found it on Saturday morning and I was happy to control the bike and be with the top guys.

“In the afternoon, I expected Marc to be very fast and adapt quickly, and he did it. I started with both soft rain tyres and expected to have a good feeling, but I was struggling a lot. I moved to the other one and then I could do two laps good, not good enough for pole, but good enough for second and it gives to me a lot of chance for tomorrow.”

Zarco said he watched all of Q1 from his garage in pit lane to analyse the conditions on track before he ventured out himself for the decisive Q2 session.

“It was great to go immediately to Q2 and immediately I could analyse how the riders were doing and how was the track in Q1. I spent all the time in the box to watch that practice and I think the grip level was quite okay,” he said.

“On the wets, it is not that good grip like in Czech Republic or in Japan, but safe enough when it is a constant level of water. It was not a lot of water when we had the qualifying and that’s why we were able to try to do things.”

Praising his team, Zarco admitted he did not feel a solution could be found ahead of the race, such was the difficulty he had experienced during FP1 and FP2 on Friday.

“I think it’s coming together but the technical side, gave me this morning the control of the bike. Yesterday, I made it clear that going into the corner the rear of the bike was sliding and when you start to slide, then it is almost impossible to fix it,” Zarco said.

“On Saturday, I didn’t expect we can improve like that because normally in the last races, we had a good start on Friday, and then we start to improve on the little things. The team did a great job so thank you to them because when I was riding in FP4, I was relaxed with a smile and I see that I am not far from the good guys, so I look forward to tomorrow.”

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