Moto3™ Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) took pole for the 11th time in 2018 at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, setting a new lightweight class qualifying lap record at Sepang. But the Spaniard heads main title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) by just 0.032 to set us up for a Sunday stunner, with Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) continuing his strong weekend to take P3 on the grid.
It was John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) who led for the majority of the session and with 15 minutes remaining, despite Bezzecchi briefly taking over at the top, McPhee had moved the goal posts again – his advantage sitting at an impressive 0.584. That was immediately trimmed to 0.052 with Martin going second fastest, however, and Free Practice’s fastest man Arbolino then jumped up to second – with McPhee then clear at the top by only 0.020.
When it was time for the final lap dash, Martin and Bezzecchi both left it late to head out – the latter crossing the line with just four seconds of the session remaining to begin his final lap. Arbolino, Martin and Bezzecchi were then all up in the opening two sectors, but provisional pole man McPhee was also looking to increase his advantage – and that’s exactly what he did. It was only by 0.060 though, with the three riders behind all on fast laps…
Martin then came across the line to top McPhee’s new benchmark by 0.350, as Arbolino slotted into P2 after he also beat the Scotsman’s time. Bezzecchi then made his final lap count and although he missed out on pole to rival Martin, he was just 0.032 down. The two title rivals therefore start side by side, although the third man in the hunt – Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) – starts down in P13 with a little more work to do.
Joining McPhee on Row 2 are Australian GP winner Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) and Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing), who was lingering down in P20 with 15 minutes remaining before a final push, with Row 3 an all-Japanese affair. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) sits P7 to lead Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) in P8 and P9 respectively. Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) rounds out the top ten; an impressive session from the Italian as he continues to recover from his Japanese GP injuries.
It’s match point to Martin in Malaysia, but with Bezzecchi breathing down his neck on the starting line, another awesome Moto3™ race looks set to take place. See who emerges victorious when the title could be decided at 10:00 local time (GMT +8).
Moto3™ Qualifying Results
1 – Jorge Martin (SPA) HONDA 2’11.731
2 – Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM +0.032
3 – Tony Arbolino (ITA) HONDA +0.334
How Martin could win the title
Jorge Martin has his first match point at Sepang. Heading into the Grand Prix he has a 12-point advantage over Marco Bezzecchi and 20-point advantage over Fabio Di Giannantonio, and he’ll be Champion…
…if he wins and Bezzecchi doesn’t finish better than 5th.
…if he finishes 2nd, Bezzecchi doesn’t finish better than 9th and Di Giannantonio doesn’t finish on the podium.
…if he finishes 3rd, Bezzecchi doesn’t finish better than 13th and Di Giannantonio not better than 5th.
…if he finishes 4th, Bezzecchi doesn’t score points and Di Giannantonio doesn’t finish better than 8th.
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