Brno, Czech Republic: Johann Zarco claimed a surprise pole for this weekend's Czech MotoGP on Saturday three hundredths of a second ahead of championship leader Fabio Quartararo.
The Ducati-Avintia rider shut out his French compatriot who won the opening two rounds of the coronavirus-curtailed season from pole for Yamaha's satellite SRT team.
"I can't believe it that I got pole position," he said.
"Beginning of qualifying, the first tyre, with the warmth, it was a bit too much and I couldn't go as fast as I did this morning. On the second tyre I finally managed better my gap with the rider I was following.
" Esponsorama Racing (@realeavintia) August 8, 2020
"I'm just so happy. I need to use this good position to start well tomorrow," he added.
Quartararo's team-mate Franco Morbidelli will start in third for Sunday's race in Brno with seven-time champion Valentino Rossi in 10th and Andrea Dovizioso back in 18th.
World champion Marc Marquez continues to be absent as he recovers from another bout of surgery on the arm he broke in a first race crash of the campaign.
Zarco, 30, who left KTM in the middle of last season due to poor results, was claiming his sixth MotoGP pole.
Youngster Quartararo leads second-placed Maverick Vinales, who starts fifth at the Masaryk Circuit, by 10 points with 12 races of the campaign to go.