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Pecco vs Martin: the contenders go toe-to-toe for pole in Malaysia

Pecco Vs Martin: The Contenders Go Toe-to-toe For Pole In MalaysiaTwo new lap records, a crash and a late dash for the top: qualifying delivers a serious teaser at Sepang.

The heat is on and it’s a 1-2 for the top two in the title fight at Sepang! Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Time) slammed in a late stunner at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia to claim pole for the first time since Barcelona, denying title rival Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) as the number 89 suffered a late crash and was forced to watch from the sidelines and then settle for second. Bagnaia’s 1:57.491 is now also the new all-time lap record at PETRONAS Sepang International Circuit, overwriting Martin’s own set just a few seconds before, and his previous 2022 best.

Third makes for an interesting player on the grids this weekend too: Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) made it a Ducati front-row lockout after he climbed his way through Q1 to bag his first front-row start of the season.Pecco Vs Martin: The Contenders Go Toe-to-toe For Pole In Malaysia

Q1
As ever, it went to the wire in Q1. The last couple of minutes saw a flurry of laps, and it was Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) who came out on top, just pipping Bastianini by 0.088.

The drama came late too, with a crash for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) when he was overtaking Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3). Rider perfectly ok, but losing out and left behind in Q1 along with the likes of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).

Pecco Vs Martin: The Contenders Go Toe-to-toe For Pole In MalaysiaQ2
After the first runs, it was Martin on top and with a freshly pressed new lap record, set behind key rival Bagnaia to boot. The Martinator was 0.238 clear of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), with Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), fastest on Friday, locking out the provisional front row as Bagnaia sat in fourth.

There were just over four minutes left on the clock as the field headed back out. In Bastianini’s case it was out for the first time in Q2, having come through Q1 and with one set of tyres in the locker for a time attack. The ‘Beast’ clocked a beast of a lap too, shooting up into provisional second on the grid just 0.108 off Martin.

A crash for Diggia in the final sector, rider ok, then looked like it could complicate life as the Yellow Flags were out, and then the same happened after a low drama lowside for Marini at Turn 9. But Bastianini was unaffected by both, and moved to within 0.041 of the top as the rest started their final assaults on Q2..

The decisive crash of the session was the next one, however. Martin was looking to better his own lap that had him on provisional pole but the number 89 overcooked it and slid out, rider ok but that last chance to push now gone. The ball was in Bagnaia’s court, and he intended to play it.

The number 1 was close in the first part of the lap, but he really turned the screw in the final two sectors. Both red, Pecco shot across the line to grab pole as Martin was forced to watch on the sidelines. And with that, it’s a 1-2 for the top two in the Championship – and Bastianini third right alongside, creating quite a front row as 37 more points go into play.

Pecco Vs Martin: The Contenders Go Toe-to-toe For Pole In MalaysiaTHE GRID
Behind Bagnaia, Martin and Bastianini, Alex Marquez just missed out on the top three by a whisker but will line up on the front of Row 2 in P4 with the Mooney VR46 Racing Team duo of Marini and Marco Bezzecchi joining him in 5th and 6th.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) lines up in P7 as the South African was the first rider just missing out on breaking the 1:58 barrier. Binder will be joined on the third row by 2021 Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) as the pair bagged P8 and P9 in Q2 respectively.

The fourth row of the grid will feature Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who rounded out the top 10 ahead of Di Giannantonio, who failed to replicate his 1:57.8 from Q1 after that crash in Q2. The Italian has to settle for P11 on the grid, with Australian GP winner Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) completing the top 12 and a key victim of Yellow Flags, leaving the Frenchman an unrepresentative 4+ seconds off the top with no flying lap counting.

The action has only just begun at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia and the heat has already been turned right up in the title fight…

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