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MotoGP Portimao: Unexpected pole for Zarco, Q1 analysis key

Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco was surprised to be on pole at Portimao after a tricky Saturday for the MotoGP paddock.

Zarco bettered his peers by almost two-tenths as the flag dropped in the afternoon’s qualifying session, with a drying Algarve International Circuit claiming six riders as they attempted to navigate the rollercoaster on slick Michelin tyres.

“So happy with this afternoon,” the Frenchman exclaimed. “I did not expect to get the pole position with the slick tyres in this tricky condition because usually with the rain tyres when it's getting dry, I feel comfortable and I can get the advantage but when we have to put the slick with the patches, I'm not so fast.


“Was really great to analyse the Q1 - because I think the most tricky session was the Q1 for the riders - so I could see where it was good confirmation to use the slick, and then stay on track and get this confidence because the track was getting better every lap.

“Try to breathe from the second last lap, also we got the crash of Pol [Espargaro] so the yellow flag, and then push for the last one. Really, as I say, I didn't expect it so makes me even more happy. Just the first one of the season after a long time because in Sachsenring was one year ago. Let's see tomorrow but to get this confidence on the dry already this afternoon, in case of dry race tomorrow will be useful.

“It should be dry tomorrow and we have the experience of last October and that's the main thing - getting almost the same tyres,” he said of Sunday’s prospects. “Just let's see the temperature of the track, if we have the same wind that today. Because was easy the qualifying, the trust of the tyres, it’s soft, soft even when the track is not at the best but tomorrow if we have dry race of the Moto3 then we will be straight the MotoGP after it, so difficult to say. Maybe we'll have a few answers during the warmup.”

Of the three previous Grand Prix at the Portimao Circuit in recent years, each has been won by the rider on pole. It’s a positive premonition for the Frenchman but one he’s not focusing on too much.  

“For me pole doesn't mean victory for the next day but helps to build up some confidence,”Zarco admitted. "It's an advantage for the start to stay with the good group immediately and do not have to fight too much or lose time when people overtake you and when you try to overtake. So that's an advantage that I need to use.

“Most important is that I could find some speed during the 15 minutes and then I will try to keep pushing on that way tomorrow. So I'm more happy with the pole because of all this confidence that I can build than just the statistic.”

Like Aleix Espargaro beside him, Zarco believes his age and grounding in the sport gave him an edge in today’s conditions.

“I think the experience is helping,” the 31-year-old confirmed. “We know the bike, we know the tyres and we can get less surprised like when the tyre is not ready. Overall with the rear tyre we could see that was very tricky, but was the most important today to really watch well the Q1  because even with the experience, the Q1 was so tricky. So yes experience helps but what helped the most today was to go straight to Q2 and watch well the Q1."

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