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.
That’s it from a day of ups and downs at Sepang International Circuit, and engines will soon be on for racing. The MotoGP™ race starts at the earlier time of 13:00 local time – that’s in GMT +8 – after changes to the schedule.
The three fastest men in qualifying L-R: Zarco, Marquez and Rossi
MotoGP™ Qualifying Results
1 – Marc Marquez (SPA) HONDA 2’12.161
First Independent Team Rider:
2 – Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA +0.548
3 – Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA +0.848