With the temperatures soaring into the high 90s with stifling humidity, the conditions at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia for the MotoGP qualifying session were pretty intense—but the riding was just as intense as everyone looked to get a decent grid position for Sunday’s race. Normally riders use the one-hour qualifying session to get more practice time in, putting some decent runs on a particular tire or setup to get everything dialed in for the race before putting on a soft tire in the last 10-15 minutes to lay down a qualifying lap. With Sepang’s energy-sapping heat, however, most of the field were only doing a handful of laps before returning to their pit box to conserve energy.
When the hour was finished, Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi took another step closer to his ninth World Championship with a masterful performance, consistently laying down quick laps to keep himself atop the leaderboard until he finally put down an outright lap record of 2:00.518 (a record that had stood since the 990cc MotoGP era) to secure pole position with about a minute to go. Rossi’s teammate and championship rival Jorge Lorenzo jumped from fifth to second with less than a minute to go as he struggled a bit with grip and confidence after his nasty crash in Australia. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa had a problem with the dashboard on his RC212V, yet still was able to qualify in the final front row position. Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was in the top three through most of the session, but had some problems on his last lap and was unable to improve on his time, ending up on the second row. Teammate Nicky Hayden looked fairly confident and was even atop the leaderboard at one stage, but he ended up seventh. Fellow American Colin Edwards fared even worse as his team spent a little too much time working on his bike during the final five minutes and the Texan ran out of time to improve his previous quick lap, and he was dropped to ninth position for Sunday’s grid.
Final Qualifying results
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 2:00.518
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 2:01.087
3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 2:01.254
4. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati 2:01.455
5. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Suzuki 2:01.716
6. Toni Elias (SPA) Honda 2:01.918
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2:01.980
8. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Honda 2:02.098
9. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha 2:02.195
10. Alex De Angelis (RSM) Honda 2:02.274