At this stage, no one is surprised with rookie Marc Marquez snatching pole position during qualifying in Malaysia in front of all the established riders in the MotoGP class; the one he got in Sepang is number eight out of a possible 15.
Marquez's Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa had been the clear dominator of the previous practice sessions, but when it came down to the one which has to decide the grid configuration, weather conditions took prominence. A light shower during the previous Moto3 session left the track in the worst conditions the MotoGP riders want to face: half wet or half dry.
Marc Marquez earned his eighth...
Marc Marquez earned his eighth pole position of the year at Sepang.
The twelve riders that take part in MotoGP’s final QP2 qualifying session hesitated to go out, but the quick 15-minute session didn’t allow them much time to doubt. Jorge Lorenzo
was the first one to feel how complicated the situation of the asphalt was when he nearly crashed in turn six. As the Majorcan was running onto the outside rumble strips to get a better line on the turn exit, he didn’t notice that there was water puddled up between the strips; as he turned back onto the asphalt, the wet tires lost grip for a moment, nearly throwing him off the bike. The lost time basically wasted his first set of soft tires for qualifying, and the Yamaha Factory Racing
rider returned to his pit box to contemplate his last time attack attempt.
The riders who were more willing to take more risks were the ones who took advantage of the situation, and so Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow led the field in front of Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Marquez when all the riders entered the pits for the last tire change with eight minutes to go in the session, meaning that there was enough time for two hot laps.
Lorenzo was the first to return to the track, and he pushed hard to register at least one lap time. On his first hot lap Lorenzo cut a full second off Crutchlow’s time, and he still had plenty of time for one more lap. It became clear that the conditions were improving every minute. On his second try Lorenzo managed to improve even more…but as it played out just a few seconds later, it was far from enough.
Rossi garnered his best qualifying...
Rossi garnered his best qualifying position of the year at Sepang by coming second behind Marquez.
Rossi, riding with more confidence than ever in this session, pushed to try to get his first pole of the year. He knew that it would be very difficult to have a chance like this again. When he finished his two laps his name was atop of the timesheets…but Marquez hadn’t finished his final lap yet. Regardless, it was Rossi’s best qualifying session of the year. “Like always here in Malaysia the race will be physically very demanding,”
said Rossi afterward. “You have to administrate yourself very carefully. You have to ride as fast as possible but at the same time save energy for the end of the race.”
Marquez had a moment at the end of the first long straight at Sepang on his first hot lap, running too deep and his heavy braking causing the rear tire to rise too high. He saved the situation by going wide, losing that lap. The young rookie then decided to throw caution to the wind on his final lap in order to take pole.
He pushed to the limit in every corner. It was one near miss after another under braking for every corner, but Marquez managed to save all of them and cross under the checkered flag to establish a new circuit best lap record. “I am very happy with today’s pole”, said Marquez afterwards. “It was different, very challenging. And being the fastest on a track that is used intensively during the preseason is also a plus. I knew that the best lap times would happen at the end of the session, so I decided to wait until the very last moment. When I started to push I was surprised with the partial lap times that were appearing on my dashboard. In fact I thought that I could do a 1:59, but at the end I didn’t manage to do it. In any case, I think all went well today, better than expected, although I did have some scary moments.”
Regarding if there was any special meaning having his main rivals – Lorenzo and Pedrosa – behind him in the second row of the grid, Marquez explained, “The first thing to do is a good start and see if Jorge or Dani pass me. I have tried some this weekend and it seems that I have improved.”
The Repsol Hondas are the clear favorite for tomorrow’s race, but as Lorenzo said, “I don’t know if I shall worry too much with the race rhythm because it seems it will rain and if it happens, it’s a blank sheet for all.”
LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl did not record a time in the QP2 qualifying session after fracturing his ankle in a freak accident at the beginning of the session. The German lowsided harmlessly in turn four on his out lap, but as he and his bike slid off the track, the LCR Honda RC213V's handlebar dug into the artificial turf lining the outside of the track. A chunk of the turf peeled up just before Bradl slid past, catching the German rider's ankle and fracturing it. He is scheduled for surgery tonight in Malaysia before returning home.
MotoGP Sepang qualifying results:
1. Marc Marquez (SPA) Honda 2:00.011
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 2:00.336
3. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 2:00.359
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 2:00.578
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 2:00.692
6. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 2:00.974
7. Bradley Smith (GBR) Yamaha 2:01.306
8. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Ducati 2:01.635
9. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Aprilia/ART 2:02.151
10. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati 2:02.536
11. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2:02.900
12. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda (no time)
13. Colin Edwards (USA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:02.858
14. Claudio Corti (ITA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:03.175
15. Hector Barbera (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:03.212
16. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) FTR/Kawasaki 2:03.418
17. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Ducati 2:03.651
18. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 2:03.805
19. Michael Laverty (IRL) ART/Aprilia 2:04.198
20. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda/BMW 2:04.310
21. Luca Scassa (ITA) ART/Aprilia 2:05.199
22. Bryan Staring (AUS) FTR/Honda 2:06.038
23. Lukas Pesek (CZE) Ioda/BMW 2:06.203
24. Damian Cudlin (AUS) ART/Aprilia 2:06.273