In what was turning out to be a tricky afternoon in Mandalika for Johann Zarco, soon turned into delight as the double Moto2 world champion secured his best MotoGP qualifying result since taking pole at Sachsenring in 2021. 

After an FP3 session which saw Zarco only 16th, the French rider then suffered a fall at turn 10 due to touching part of the circuit that had oil leaked onto it. 

Moments before Zarco arrived at said turn 10, Alex Rins’ GSX-RR Suzuki began to spill oil before eventually catching fire on the exit of turn 12.

With oil flags or more importantly red flags not yet deployed as the incident was in the midst of taking place, riders were therefore unaware of what happened in front of them which resulted in Zarco coming unstuck for his first fall of the weekend.

Nevertheless, Zarco was able to bounce back in qualifying and claim third place, a result that was shaped by finding his rhythm during Friday’s FP2.  

Zarco added: "It started already on Friday with a good lap in FP2. I had no stress in FP3. 

"With the crash in FP4 it seems as though I touched a bit of oil from Rins because the area I was at with the bike I could not have crashed normally. I think I got more tired from pushing my bike through the gravel than riding the bike. 

"When I came back to the box it was good to have the red flag to breath and calm down. The end of FP4 was a good session as I could try harder tyres. For me it works well, so in case of a very hot condition in the race I think it can be a good option for me. 

"After that, in qualifying I saw the 1m 31s would be hard to do so I tried to follow a good one (rider) but I was not the only one to think like this. 

"The last lap Bastianini was in front and I tried to do my best to get this 31.3 and the first row."

Like team-mate Jorge Martin and to a lesser extent both factory riders Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller, who are using a hybrid 21/22 engine, Zarco is continuing to find out more about his GP22 bike which has flashed immense raw speed, despite being quite tricky to ride. 

A key area where the GP22 Ducati looks to have lost some of its advantage is concerning race starts.

As we saw in Qatar, several Ducati riders went backwards off the line which was the complete opposite to what we saw last season. However, Zarco believes it’s an area that’s potentially been sorted ahead of Sunday’s first-ever Mandalika Grand Prix.   

Zarco continued: "We keep working on the 22 bike and it’s true that for the start we were struggling a bit in Qatar. 

"The starts I did here were much better so we will see how the opponents are going. I think the third position for the line is a good position to start on and I have a chance to do a really good start."