Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed MotoGP pole in Malaysian GP at a wet Sepang from Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.
After a lengthy delay of more than a hour due to heavy rain, the first part of qualifying session finally got underway at Sepang with riders opting to use the wet weather tyres still due to the damp conditions.
It wasn’t a stiff fight as such for a spot in Q2 with handful of riders exchanging places in the Top 2 spots with Angel Nieto Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista (2m13.311s) topping the session from Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro (2m13.335s) to make it into Q2.
It was a good showing from Aprilia as Espargaro’s teammate Scott Redding (2m13.786s) was third and will start 13th in the Sunday’s race from Jorge Lorenzo’s stand-in Michele Pirro (2m13.823s) on the Ducati.
The Spaniard pulled out of the weekend ahead of the FP3 session. Pirro had less time to adjust but looked good to find a spot in Q2 but for a mistake on his last flying lap. Avintia Ducati’s Xavier Simeon (2m13.971s) did well to be 15th for his best qualifying result.
His teammate Jordi Torres is ruled out of the weekend due to a crash in FP4. The KTM duo of Pol Espargaro (2m14.132s) and Bradley Smith (2m14.332s) were 16th and 17th respectively despite a crash for Smith as he rushed onto his second bike.
It was then the two Marc VDS Honda riders Thomas Luthi (2m14.843s) and Franco Morbidelli (2m14.994s) in 18th and 19th respectively. Cal Crutchlow’s stand-in Stefan Bradl (2m15.364s) on LCR Honda was 20th.
Angel Nieto Ducati’s Karel Abraham (2m15.679s) was pushed down to 21st with LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami (2m16.558s) and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Hafizh Syahrin (2m16.825s) completing the 23 runners – the Malaysian having a disappointing run on his home circuit.
The second part of the session saw Marquez lead the way with provisional pole from the two Pramac Ducati riders Petrucci and Miller in the front row as the damp conditions did pose a stiff challenge to all the riders.
Most of the riders stayed out apart from Marquez and Yamaha’s Rossi – the former having to change bikes after a crash in Turn 4. The final stages in the session changed the order for the race but Marquez’s position remained safe.
His 2m12.161s was enough to hand him pole as the fight for second saw multiple riders change hands with the likes of Petrucci, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, Rossi and Zarco all putting up their names.
A crash for Dovizioso hindered his chances as Rossi then improved to second but was beaten by Zarco who put in a 2m12.709s to the Italian’s 2m13.009s. Iannone (2m13.097s) slotted in fourth with Dovizioso (2m13.187s) hanging on to fifth.
After a good showing early, both the Pramac riders dropped down with Miller (2m13.274s) in seventh from Petrucci (2m13.413s). Suzuki’s Alex Rins (2m13.463s) was eighth from Bautista (2m14.185s) with Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (2m14.443s) rounding the Top 10.
While Rossi had a better run, it wasn’t so much for his Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales (2m14.856s) who could only manage 11th place with Espargaro (2m15.340s) in 12th after the Spaniard’s early off.
UPDATE: A post-race penalty to Marquez for riding in an irresponsible manner which slowed down a rival – in this case Iannone – the Spaniard has been handed with a six-place penalty for the Sunday’s race.
As a result, Zarco will start on pole for Sunday’s Malaysian GP alongside Rossi and Iannone with Dovizioso, Miller and Petrucci completing the row two with Marquez then leading row three in seventh alongside Rins and Bautista.