Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco secured his eighth MotoGP pole position on Saturday to control the grid for the British Grand Prix.
The Frenchman’s 1’57.767 topped six riders under the 1’58 barrier as Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales claimed his first front row start on the RS-GP and Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller completed the Parc Fermé celebrations in third.
MotoGP qualifying began after a bruising FP4 for Aleix Espargaro. The Aprilia rider suffering a monstrous highside on his second hot lap of the final practice with the Spaniard launched skywards at 115mph through turn 12 and stretchered off the track. However, after brief evaluations in the medical centre he was declared fit for Q2.
Younger brother Pol Espargaro headed out for Q1 alongside the soon-to-retire Andrea Dovizioso, Gresini’s Enea Bastianini and both Factory KTM’s of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira as 14 riders prepared to battle for the last two available promotion places. Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi headed the initial times with a 1’59.392 from fellow Academy rider Franky Morbidelli on the Monster Energy Yamaha.
Alex Marquez crashed the LCR Honda out at turn eight as Bastianini took over at the top, almost four-tenths clear with the sole 1’58, Oliveira sitting second from Morbidelli and Bezzecchi with Binder trailing in fifth from the Gresini rookie of Fabio Di Giannantonio.
The closing action saw Binder fire up a challenge with the South African finding 1’58 pace to sit second, demoting his teammate out of contention in the process as the second Gresini dropped the second KTM further with his penultimate lap, just 0.016s shy of promotion himself. Bastianini advanced the target with his final 1’58.609 shot as Binder’s challenge faltered in the second half.
Bezzecchi stormed to the line 0.147s behind his countryman to take the last remaining place in Q2, with Oliveira bettering his teammate but a further 0.097s short in third. Rookies Di Giannantonio and Remy Gardner sat fifth and sixth ahead of the fallen Marquez and Repsol pairing Stefan Bradl and Espargaro. Morbidelli completed the day in 10th from Takaaki Nakagami, Raul Fernandez, Darryn Binder and the second WithU Yamaha of Dovizioso.
A determined Espargaro rolled out on the RS-GP as Q2 began. Pramac’s Jorge Martin and Zarco locking out the top of the standing with their initial efforts, a 1’58.377 the impressive benchmark with the Frenchman just 0.053s shy in second. Reigning champion Quartararo was up for the challenge, however, as he bettered the pair with a 1’58.259. Miller slotting in a mere 0.001s behind as Viñales struck for third.
The second runs saw Espargaro ignite for a record-breaking 1’57.966 effort to take provisional pole with a raft of red sectors ready to challenge. Quartararo, Miller and Zarco all bettering the Aprilia in quick succession as the Pramac Frenchman claimed the spoils with a 1’57.767. Viñales slotted into second as the chequered flag dropped with Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia claiming fifth ahead of the heroic Espargaro, any remaining threats fading as the session drew to a close.
Q1 promotees Bezzecchi and Bastianini sat seventh and eighth ahead of a disappointed Martin, Luca Marini, and the two Suzuki Ecstar of Alex Rins and Joan Mir with seven-tenths covering the entire top twelve.