Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) topped an incredible qualifying shootout at Sepang International Circuit, with the front row split by only 0.024 seconds and the Little Samurai coming out on top. Pedrosa, the pole record holder, put in a number of quick laps towards the end and stole it on his final attempt to take his eleventh front row and fourth pole at the venue. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was second, top Independent Team rider and top Yamaha, ahead of the first of the title challengers: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
Dovizioso was only 0.024 seconds off pole and was the man provisionally set to take it until the final few seconds, but the Italian holds the cards after key rival and points leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had a more difficult session and will line up seventh – on the third row. Marquez crashed on his first flier, taking a tumble at Turn 15 but able to get the bike going and head down pitlane, and was unable to threaten once back out on track. It’s only the second time ever in the premier class the reigning Champion has failed to qualify in the top six.
The second row is headed by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after the first man into the 1:59s on Saturday morning was able to get the better of teammate Maverick Viñales, with the Spaniard just 0.040 off the veteran Italian and lining up in fifth. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) completes an all-star second row, again within a tenth of the man ahead of him.
Behind Marquez is Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – the first of the Q2 graduates – who just beat teammate Andrea Iannone, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completing the top ten after a crash.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) lines up P11, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in twelfth and once again keeping the Austrian manufacturer in Q2 as their impressive form continues. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and teammate Scott Redding line up in thirteenth and fourteenth, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) rounding out the fastest fifteen.
Now it’s race day – with Dovizioso ready for a last stand off the front row, and Marquez looking to pick his way through from seventh as he faces his first chance at the crown.
MotoGP Qualifying Results
1 – Dani Pedrosa (SPA – Honda) 1’59.212
1st Independent Team Rider:
2 – Johann Zarco (FRA – Yamaha) +0.017
3 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.024