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Aug 8 (Reuters) – Johann Zarco claimed a first MotoGP pole position for Avintia Ducati at the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno on Saturday, edging fellow Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, who crashed on his final lap.
Zarco produced a blistering lap of one minute 55.687 seconds, which was enough to ensure he was 0.303 seconds faster than championship leader Quartararo on the Petronas Yamaha.
“I can’t believe I got to pole,” Zarco said. “Now I need to use this good position to start well tomorrow.
“The pace is still not the best to hope for a victory but I will continue to learn more about my bike and improve myself (this season).”
Quartararo tried to claw back the top spot for a fifth consecutive pole but crashed on the penultimate corner on his final effort.
The 21-year-old Quartararo was awarded a front-row spot after KTM’s Pol Espargaro best effort was scrapped for breaking yellow flag rules.
“At the end of the day, it was really important to finish on the front row,” Quartararo said. “I felt I was at the limit and braked way too late in the second-last corner.
“But I’m really happy today as we improved our pace through the final practice round.”
Petronas Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli clinched the final front-row spot on the grid, while Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro finished fourth.
Valentino Rossi’s bid to become the first rider to record 200 premier class podiums suffered a blow after his Yamaha finished 10th fastest, while Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso failed to make through Q1 and finished 18th.
Quartararo leads the championship standings with 50 points and will look to extend his 10-point lead over Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales, who will start fifth on the grid.
World champion Marc Marquez is unavailable this weekend after undergoing a second operation on a broken arm.
The Spaniard underwent a fresh procedure this week to replace a damaged titanium plate inserted after he broke his right arm in the July 19 season-opening race in Spain.
In the absence of Marquez, Repsol Honda have Stefan Bradl and Alex Marquez starting at the very back of the grid. (Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar)