Silverstone — Ducati's French rider Johann Zarco clocked a new track record to grab pole for the British MotoGP in qualifying at Silverstone on Saturday as Aleix Espargaro took an honourable sixth after a high-speed crash.
Zarco, who rides for Ducati's satellite Pramac team, is joined on the front row for Sunday's race by Maverick Vinales of Aprilia, just 0.098s behind, and Jack Miller on a factory Ducati.
World champion and series leader Fabio Quartararo took fourth on the grid for this 12th round of the 20-race season.
The French rider must serve a long lap penalty during the race as punishment for a collision with Espargaro at Assen before the break.
Zarco claimed his second prime grid position of the season and eighth in MotoGP in style with a lap of 1min 57.767s to smash the former track record of 1min 58.168 set by the absent Marc Marquez.
Six-time MotoGP champion Marquez is recovering from his latest bout of surgery on the broken arm he suffered in a crash in the Spanish Grand Prix in 2020.
He is due for an important medical check up in mid-August after which an idea of when he can return to his day job should become clearer.
Zarco meanwhile has given himself every chance to register his first win in the top category.
Quartararo has for company on the second row the Ducati of Francesco Bagnaia and Espargaro's Aprilia.
This was a stoic performance from Espargaro who competed in qualifying despite suffering a heavy fall during final practice earlier in the day.
The 33-year-old, who had just set the fastest time in the third practice session, flew off his bike entering a fast corner at 185kph in the fourth session.
Medics rushed to his aid, moving him onto a stretcher. But in spite of being visibly stunned by the impact, Espargaro was able to walk to the medical centre, albeit with support on either side.
He sits 21 points behind Yamaha's world championship leader Quartararo heading into this first race since the mid-summer break, with Zarco third, a further 37 points adrift.
Quartararo won here last year and is trying to break a statistical oddity of the British MotoGP.
No one has won the race twice in a row since Jorge Lorenzo in 2012 and 2013, a total of seven races because the 2018 (heavy rain) and 2020 (Covid-19) events were cancelled.