Fabio Quartararo took a sensational home GP pole position for Petronas Yamaha SRT in a hugely dramatic Q2 at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix; a stunning 1:58.303 meaning he saw off fellow Yamaha riders Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in the fight for the top. Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez crashed out from following the Frenchman, and he’ll start P11.
A frantic session started with Marquez backing out of his first flying lap, and soon after the 2019 World Champion was locked on to Quartararo. The rookie kept his head down on his first lap to take provisional pole, however, before Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) then took over at the summit in Q2.
Quartararo remained unfazed though, firing in a stunner as Marquez quickly lost touch. The Hondas of Marquez and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) were unable to do anything about the flying Frenchman, but Viñales was the next to take up the challenge and he managed to edge him out by just 0.087.
And then came the drama. As Quartararo headed out for his second run, Marquez rumbled out of pitlane right next to the Yamaha and shadowed him around Sepang, intent on remaining latched onto the rear of the fastest man on Friday. But would Quartararo ruin his next lap in order to not drag the World Champion round? The answer was no, and as the number 20 fired his Yamaha out of the final corner and down the straight, it was go time.
Despatching Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) to latch back onto Quartararo, Marquez made Turn 1 in hot pursuit before it all went wrong soon after. Pushing to stay with the rookie, the reigning Champion then suddenly suffered a highside and tumbled off in to the gravel at Turn 2 as Quartararo continued his final charge.
At the time of the crash, Marquez was fifth. As the red and yellow sectors lit up the timing screens for the rest, that started to look in doubt. And sure enough, it would all shuffle again. Quartararo was pulling out the tenths; 0.2 under halfway around the lap, 0.3 under at the third split…but would he hold on? A slight twitch at the final corner threatened to spoil a phenomenal lap but, although losing time, Quartararo took the chequered flag to take an immense fifth pole of 2019 and his sixth consecutive front row start.
Viñales and Morbidelli make it a Yamaha front row lockout in Malaysia in second and third, with a Ducati, Honda and Yamaha making up the second row: Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) spearheads Row 3 in P7 ahead of Petrucci, with LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Johann Zarco having a sterling ride in Q2 to grab his best dry qualifying of the year in P9 – the second best Honda on the grid.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) took P10 in the end and pipped the man he’s fought for the title for the last three years to the honour, with Marquez’ crash proving even more costly than it initially seemed and the number 93 down in P11 in his worst qualifying since Mugello 2015. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) took P12 to start alongside him.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) complete the top fifteen.
The Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix was already set up to impress, but a tale of two halves for Marquez and a few of his biggest rivals mean Sunday is really poised for a showdown. Who can take the heat? Find out at 15:00 (GMT +8) as the lights go out for the premier class.
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’58.303
2 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) +0.103
3 – Franco Morbidelli* (ITA – Yamaha) +0.129
*Independent Team rider
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