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A lot has changed in the ten years since Jorge Lorenzo set the world alight on his premier class debut, but the Qatar pole lap record hadn't. Set by the Majorcan in 2008, the Losail laptime remained steadfast in the record books for a decade and was the oldest of its kind until Saturday of the 2018 Qatar GP and a scorcher from Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). The Frenchman, now heading into his second season, marked his return to the venue at which he first led a premier class race in serious style - uncatchable ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to set a 1:53.680. So the reigning Champion starts his title defence from two tenths behind in second, and top Ducati Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) completes the front row and the trio of those who broke the record.
Highlights: Zarco takes pole with record setting lap
With strong winds throughout the day and the track temperature cooling as night fell for qualifying, the session revealed another piece in the puzzle of the first race of the year. Behind the top three, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was next up heading the second row to make it 75% Independent Team riders in the top four, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) - the man on provisional pole after the first run - taking the middle of Row 2. But Marquez says the 2017 Championship runner up has the best race pace - something that will be revealed on Sunday.
How was the lap record beaten in Losail?
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, kept his great pace at Losail rolling for his best ever qualifying position to lock out the second row, after Suzuki mounted the biggest challenge to Ducati on Friday.
#QatarGP: MotoGP™ Full Race
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) heads up an all-star Row 3 with some serious potential for fireworks, with 17 World Championships crammed into three grid places as the Spaniard heads Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi and Ducati Team's Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo, who suffered some technical trouble in FP4, says he is out of position - and Rossi says the battle at the front could be more than ten riders. And Lorenzo, as well as being the previous pole record holder, is also the most successful rider at Losail across all classes - but Rossi beats him in the premier class with four to Lorenzo's three wins.
Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) completed the top ten after moving through Q1, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) two tenths back in P11 to make it more than ten riders within a second of pole. Meanwhile, 2017 polesitter and winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lines up in P12 - but also showed incredible consistency on a long run in FP4...
#QatarGP: MotoGP™ Qualifying 2
Valentino Rossi expects to fight it out for the #QatarGP with more than ten riders and Losail always serves up a desert storm. Don't miss the 2018 season opener, with the lights going out at 19:00 local time (GMT +3) as the battle well and truly commences.
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