Johann Zarco achieved an extraordinary upset to take Brno MotoGP pole for Ducati’s third-tier Avintia team on a year-old bike, as championship leader Fabio Quartararo crashed.
Quartararo will still start second, and was not on course to depose fellow Frenchman Zarco even before he fell.
Zarco’s pole completes an incredible turnaround from his dramatic and ill-tempered split with the works KTM team last summer.
He moved via a Honda stint to Avintia – a team he had previously heavily criticised – in the hope of working his way up the Ducati pecking order in the future.
Rapid throughout practice, Zarco took pole by a comfortable three tenths of a second on a day when some of MotoGP’s biggest teams faced back of the grid embarrassment.
The SRT Petronas Yamaha team completes the front row, with practice pacesetters Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli alongside Zarco.
In another underdog upset, Aleix Espargaro showed what Aprilia is capable of after its Jerez disappointments by qualifying fourth – helped by following Quartararo on his best lap.
The works Yamahas will start fifth and 10th with Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi, split by the factory KTMs of Pol Espagaro and Brad Binder, leading works Ducati man Danilo Petrucci and the Suzuki of Joan Mir.
Pol Espargaro was on course for the front row had he not had a lap deleted due to a yellow-flag infringement.
That yellow was for a crash by Cal Crutchlow, who was lighting up the timing screens on the lap when he fell. He is still the highest Honda on the grid in 12th, behind Alex Rins’s Suzuki.
While the shock stars celebrated their results, qualifying was miserable for two teams that expected to be fighting for the title.
At a track where he won in 2018 and finished second last year, Andrea Dovizioso’s problems worsened as he struggled to eighth place in Q1 – leaving him 18th on the grid.
He lost one lap to yellow flags for a crash by Bradley Smith, but that would’ve made no difference to his position.
Ducati at least fared very slightly better than the works Honda team. In the absence of Marc Marquez, the Repsol bikes were slowest of all for the first time in their history.
Marquez’s stand-in Stefan Bradl will start 20th, with Alex Marquez – who crashed in practice four just ahead of qualifying – 21st.
Honda had started the weekend brightly with LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami continuing his Jerez promise to set the pace on Friday morning, but Nakagami lost a lap that should’ve got him into Q2 to a track limits infringement so ended up 17th on the grid.
|Pos||Name||Team||Bike||Group 1||Group 2|
|1||Johann Zarco||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m55.687s|
|2||Fabio Quartararo||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1m55.99s|
|3||Franco Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1m55.998s|
|4||Aleix Espargaró||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1m56.074s|
|5||Maverick Viñales||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1m56.131s|
|6||Pol Espargaró||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m56.142s|
|7||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m56.291s||1m56.299s|
|8||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati Team||Ducati||1m56.454s|
|9||Joan Mir||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||1m56.512s|
|10||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1m56.515s|
|11||Alex Rins||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||1m56.23s||1m56.571s|
|12||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||Honda||1m56.797s|
|13||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1m56.328s|
|14||Jack Miller||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m56.352s|
|15||Tito Rabat||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m56.695s|
|16||Iker Lecuona||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1m56.764s|
|17||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda||Honda||1m56.822s|
|18||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Team||Ducati||1m57.034s|
|19||Bradley Smith||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1m57.438s|
|20||Stefan Bradl||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m57.573s|
|21||Alex Marquez||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m57.606s|