Marquez was half a second clear and took pole number 80 across all classes, but a six-place grid penalty puts him in P7 on the grid
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) secured an 80th career pole position after he was the early master of the wet Q2 conditions at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, but there was a small bump back to Earth not long after for the reigning World Champion as he later crashed – and then another as he was given a six-place grid penalty for irresponsible riding. The number 93 impeded Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and will now start seventh.
So what does that mean? It means we have an Independent Team rider starting from pole, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) now on top after going second quickest in the session. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts second, and fittingly, it’s Iannone now completing that front row.
Back at the beginning it was Marquez who led the field over the line and set the first benchmark; a 2:13.641 to edge out Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing), who was just behind the Spaniard on track. Iannone was also within a tenth after the first lap, with a mere 0.051 splitting the top three, but with a banker lap under his belt, Marquez then slammed in a rapid second lap to considerably shift the goal posts. A 2:12.161 put him a full 1.264 quicker than the man who’d taken over at the top, Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), as the World Champion put some serious daylight between himself and his rivals. The Repsol Honda rider then lost the front at Turn 4, however, and there was no saving this one.
The field then set about trying to beat Marquez’ marker. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) shot up to P2 but was still over a second off and then on his final flying lap and then Italian crashed at Turn 9, before Iannone went up to P2 but the gap was remained 0.936. A flying Frenchman then propelled himself into second with Zarco cutting the gap to eight tenths and fellow YZR-M1 rider Rossi then leapfrogging him. Could either go one better on their final attempt?
Zarco put in a personal best lap to re-take P2 from ‘The Doctor’, but the gap between the number 93 and his rivals remained 0.548 after a masterclass from Marquez for his 80th career pole position across all classes. Then, though, news came through of the penalty and although it remains a Marquez pole in the statistics, he’ll be starting seventh.
That means Dovizioso starts fourth despite his crash, with fellow Desmosedici rider Miller ending the session P6 after setting his best lap on his final lap. He now starts in the middle of a second row completed by teammate Danilo Petrucci. Marquez heads Row 3, ahead of Friday’s quickest rider Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Q1 graduate Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team).
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Australian GP winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) line up on a super-powered Row 4.
Moto2 – Record-Breaker Marquez
The circuit best lap was pulverised in Moto2 qualifying, with Australian Remy Gardner (Tech 3) the first to get underneath the 2015 record set by Thomas Luthi. But the son-of-a-champion was consigned to fourth at the end.
Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) ran fully seven tenths faster to take his third pole of the year, almost half-a-second clear. The other two were right at the start of the year, and Marc’s younger brother has just two races left to take a first win of a year of problems and disappointment. Alex dominated all free practice sessions as well.
Alongside on the front row: Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex) and Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up); while alongside Gardner is Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Kalex) and Pecco Bagnaia (SKY VR46 Kalex).
Bagnaia has the chance to tie up the championship tomorrow, starting out 36 points ahead of closest rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM), and needing to leave only 25 points ahead.
Oliveira qualified just six hundredths and one place down, to head the third row from Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Kalex) and second KTM rider Brad Binder, fresh from his third win in Australia.
American Joe Roberts (RW NTS) qualified 23rd, one place ahead of team-mate Steven Odendaal.
Moto3 – Martin Edges It Again
Jorge Martin seized his 11th pole of the season in fully dry Moto3. But the Del Conca Gresini Honda rider was only 0.032 of a second clear of his main title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Redox Pruestel KTM).
The top three riders were all inside the track’s previous best-ever lap, set last year by champion Joan Mir.
The times came in the usual session-end flurry, with long-time leader John McPhee (CIP Green Power KTM) consigned to fourth, leading row two, in spite of improving himself. Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Honda) took third, for his first front-row start since he was on pole in Argentina.
Spaniard Martin leads Bezzecchi by 12 points, after the Italian was knocked down and out a week ago in Australia … for a second time in the last three races. But Martin also fell a fortnight ago in Japan, and the title battle is as tense as it could be.
Australian GP winner Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto) was fourth, with Enea Bastianini (Leopard Honda) completing row two, and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Honda) heading the third from fellow Honda riders Kazuki Masaki and Ayumu Sasaki.
The rejuvenated Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM) was 11th, just over a second away from pole.
By Michael Scott