Zarco Puts Yamaha In MotoGP Pole Position At Assen

Johann Zarco, Marc Marquez, and Danilo Petrucci will lead field toward Turn 1 on Sunday in the Netherlands.

Johann Zarco pole position
Johann Zarco, Yamaha Tech 3Photo: MotoGP
Zarco, Yamaha Tech 3
“When I could see my name on top of all these guys, I was really happy,” said Johann Zarco, pole winner at Assen. “The track was wet but we got a dry line. I like this kind of conditions.”Photo: MotoGP

Johann Zarco saved his best for last on Saturday at Assen, taking advantage of a wet-but-drying racetrack in the final moments of qualifying to outdistance Marc Marquez and Danilo Petrucci and earn his first career MotoGP pole position.

In only his eighth premier-class race weekend, the Yamaha Tech 3 rider stayed on track for the entire 15-minute session and completed seven laps—1:50.428, 148.969, 1:49.734, 1:46.710, 2:01.746, 1:47.098, and 1:46.141—of the 18-turn, 2.82-mile Dutch circuit.

Earlier in Free Practice 3, Zarco did 18 laps, more than any other premier-class rider. In FP4, the two-time Moto2 champion managed another six, again more than any other rider. “I was almost always [on track] to get more information for qualifying,” he said.

Marquez Assen
“Toward the end of the session, a dry line started to form and we were able to be faster,” Marc Marquez said, adding that he just missed the chance to do another lap at the end of the session.Photo: Repsol Honda

Dutch GP Qualifying Results 1. Johann ZARCO (5) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 2. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA 3. Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Racing DUCATI 4. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 5. Scott REDDING (45) Octo Pramac Racing DUCATI 6. Jonas FOLGER (94) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 7. Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI 8. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA 9. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI 10. Sam LOWES (22) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 11. Maverick VIÑALES (25) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 12. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA 13. Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA 14. Loris BAZ (76) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI 15. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 16. Andrea IANNONE (29) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI 17. Alex RINS (42) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI 18. Karel ABRAHAM (17) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI 19. Pol ESPARGARO (44) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 20. Hector BARBERA (8) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI 21. Jorge LORENZO (99) Ducati Team DUCATI 22. Bradley SMITH (38) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 23. Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA

Zarco articulated that the mid-qualifying slowdown was part of his plan. "I thought to change the rear tire but I had no time. I slowed down and pushed my last two laps. I did a good job in Moto2 when it was dry with rain tires, and I did it again on the Yamaha."

Historically speaking, Zarco is the first French rider to win a MotoGP pole in the modern four-stroke era. In 2002, former 250cc World Champion Olivier Jacque topped qualifying at the Sachsenring in Germany on a Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 YZR500.

Marquez said changing conditions made the track challenging to understand. “It was difficult to push on the limit,” he admitted. “My target was trying to push every time a little bit more and 100 percent on the last lap. I did a few mistakes, but I am quite happy.”

Petrux, Assen
“I don’t know which weather I prefer for tomorrow,” said Danilo Petrucci. “If it is dry, maybe I’m not fast enough to be on the podium, but I want to stay around the top five.”Photo: Pramac Racing
The Doctor, Assen
Valentino Rossi, Movistar YamahaPhoto: Yamaha Racing

This is Marquez’s fourth front-row start of the season. The 24-year-old Spaniard hasn’t been on pole since the third round at Circuit of The Americas. “It is quite important to start there,” he said about the front row. “If tomorrow is dry, the Yamaha riders have a really good pace.”

Petrucci earned his second front-row start in as many races but envisioned an even better result. “I expected to be on pole,” he said. “I stayed on top all of the session. I made a mistake in the fast right corner in the last sector of the last lap and missed the opportunity.”

Valentino Rossi will head the second row, alongside Scott Redding and Zarco’s teammate, Jonas Folger. “We had two practices more or less full wet, so we could work on the new chassis,” Rossi said. “Now, we have to wait on the weather. We hope for full dry or full wet.”

Redding, Assen
Scott Redding, OCTO Pramac RacingPhoto: Pramac Racing
Folger, Assen
Jonas Folger, Yamaha Tech 3Photo: MotoGP

Redding and Sam Lowes advanced from Q1 and will start Sunday fifth and 10th, respectively. Redding fell in Q2 but sprinted to the pits for a second Pramac Ducati and bettered his lap. Lowes’ Gresini Aprilia expired near the end of the session, ending an otherwise strong performance.

Thanks to his top-10 lap in dry FP2, Dani Pedrosa transferred directly to Q2 but the Jerez race winner is nevertheless on the fourth row of the grid, his qualifying time of 1:49.623 more than a second slower than that of Jorge Lorenzo, who will start 21st.

Bautista, Assen
Alvaro Bautista, Aspar TeamPhoto: MotoGP
Crutchlow, Assen
Cal Crutchlow, LCR HondaPhoto: MotoGP
Dovi, Assen
Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati TeamPhoto: Ducati Team
Lowes, Assen
Sam Lowes, Aprilia Racing Team GresiniPhoto: MotoGP

“Today was impossible for me to ride in a normal condition,” Pedrosa said. “I couldn’t make any tire temperature in the rear, especially when it was wet.” Added Lorenzo, “No grip on the rear—like riding on ice. I couldn’t lean, I couldn’t open the throttle. A difficult day.”

Unless your name is Zarco, that is. “From Qatar, I think this is something not expected,” he admitted. “The target is to be on the podium and fight one day for the victory. So, if I can start my rookie season at this level it is better to fix a good target for next season.”