Zarco snatches pole from Mir at Portuguese GP
Pramac Ducati's Johann Zarco claimed pole position in the Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday after edging Joan Mir and Aleix Espargaro in treacherous qualifying conditions at the Algarve International Circuit.
With the track experiencing heavy rain in the buildup, the first qualifying session (Q1) was witness to a number of crashes as Zarco's late rally pushed Suzuki Ecstar's former world champion Mir into second, with Espargaro finishing third on his Aprilia.
"Pretty happy. I did not expect this," said Zarco. "The best strategy today was to stay out on the track on the same tyres for the whole 15 minutes."
Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia, using slick tyres, exited qualifying early after hitting a damp patch on turn two in Q1, while Gresini Racing's world championship leader Enea Bastianini also suffered a nasty fall in the final minute and will start 18th.
"I hate to say this, but I was scared," said Espargaro, who won the Argentine Grand Prix earlier in the season. "The wet patches were very slippery ... you had to stay focused. For me, this is like a victory."
Bagnaia's team mate Jack Miller will start fourth on the grid, with reigning champion Fabio Quartararo fifth on his Yamaha.
Six-times world champion Marc Marquez, who looked set for pole in the final stages, was bumped down to ninth after his lap time was cancelled following yellow flags that were deployed due to a crash involving Pol Espargaro.