Dani Pedrosa takes Pole ahead of Zarco & Dovizioso
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) topped an incredible qualifying shootout at Sepang International Circuit, with the front row split by only 0.024 seconds and the Little Samurai coming out on top.
Pedrosa, the pole record holder, put in a number of quick laps towards the end and stole it on his final attempt to take his eleventh front row and fourth pole at the venue. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was second, top Independent Team rider and top Yamaha, ahead of the first of the title challengers: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
Dovizioso was only 0.024 seconds off pole and was the man provisionally set to take it until the final few seconds, but the Italian holds the cards after key rival and points leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had a more difficult session and will line up seventh – on the third row.
Marquez crashed on his first flier, taking a tumble at Turn 15 but able to get the bike going and head down pitlane, and was unable to threaten once back out on track. It’s only the second time ever in the premier class the reigning Champion has failed to qualify in the top six.
The second row is headed by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after the first man into the 1:59s on Saturday morning was able to get the better of teammate Maverick Viñales, with the Spaniard just 0.040 off the veteran Italian and lining up in fifth. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) completes an all-star second row, again within a tenth of the man ahead of him.
Behind Marquez is Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – the first of the Q2 graduates – who just beat teammate Andrea Iannone, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completing the top ten after a crash.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) lines up P11, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in twelfth and once again keeping the Austrian manufacturer in Q2 as their impressive form continues. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and teammate Scott Redding line up in thirteenth and fourteenth, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) rounding out the fastest fifteen.
Now it’s race day – with Dovizioso ready for a last stand off the front row, and Marquez looking to pick his way through from seventh as he faces his first chance at the crown.
MotoGP Qualifying Results
Dani Pedrosa (SPA – Honda) 1’59.212
Johann Zarco (FRA – Yamaha) +0.017
Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.024
Dani Pedrosa – P1
“I’m very happy with this pole, which is our third this year. It’s a nice feeling because I usually struggle in qualifying, but the track improved a lot with today’s sunny conditions, offering good grip. Both tyres worked very well in qualifying, so I was able to find the rhythm on my first flying lap and set a good time, and then I pushed harder and improved on my second run. I made a couple of little mistakes but it was enough for the pole, which is fantastic. I’m happy for the team, as this pole is for them. We’ll have to see what the conditions are like for the race as we’re still struggling in the wet, so we’re really hoping for the sun tomorrow.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P3
“The front row was our target and we achieved it today, but I’m even happier about our speed, which is fundamental this weekend. If you don’t have a good pace, it’s no good thinking about race strategies and we were fast in all the conditions, especially in the dry and with used tyres like this afternoon in FP4. In qualifying I did an almost perfect lap, and this gave me an immense satisfaction! We are ready for tomorrow, in any weather conditions: the bike is going really well, we are quick and this is the most important thing, because our aim is to fight for the win.”
Valentino Rossi – P4
“In general it was a good day, because already from this morning I felt good with the bike. Into qualifying we were still working, because the level of the top five or six riders was very close, it was very balanced, we‘re all the same. I tried to push, my lap was good, I rode well. The lap time was OK, I saw P1 at that moment, but after that the others improved. Starting from P4 is a good position, but we have to work on the balance of the bike because I‘m not fast enough yet in some places. Like always, the tyre decision and the weather conditions will be very important tomorrow. For me it‘s still open which tyre to use on the front and for the rear, we have to decide if we go with the medium or the hard and also the combination between the two, it depends. First of all, I hope for good weather tomorrow, so we can try to race with the slicks.”
Maverick Vinales – P5
“Today‘s qualifying was very close, all the riders‘ times were very close together. We are 0.3s from first and I‘m happy. In FP3 I didn‘t feel so well, but then we made some changes on the bike in FP4 and I felt good again. I think that for tomorrow we still have some room for improvement and that‘s very important. I feel really good and I think I have a clear idea on which tyre I’ll use for the race. I‘m especially happy because there were many races where throughout the weekend we didn‘t make good steps forward, but here we made great progress. We have to be very intelligent about tomorrow‘s race, first of all about deciding on the tyres. We have to choose the best option for our bike. In the end I think we have the package, I‘m good on the brakes and feel strong there compared to the other riders, so let‘s see if we can get the job done tomorrow.”
Jorge Lorenzo – P6
“It was a positive day, even though about four tenths were missing for me to get onto the front row. In qualifying I lapped with consistent times but I was missing a ‘demon’ lap to be able to fight for the pole position. However I’m happy, because we improved the bike a lot during the weekend and I also managed to improve my riding style, especially under braking. Tomorrow we can stay in the leading group and if we have a good pace, fight for an important result.”
Marc Marquez – P7
“We’re not at our best at the moment, but I think our race pace is better then our qualifying position. This morning we made a small mistake with the setup and lost the direction a little bit. Then we sorted things out and I felt really good on the bike again in FP4, but in qualifying I crashed on my first run, which completely changed our plans. I had to take my second bike but I didn’t feel perfect on it, so I did a lap that was good but not good enough. Anyway, we’re not happy with today but not completely disappointed either, as our pace isn’t bad. Tomorrow we’ll try and have a good race. It won’t be easy because here, every time you go on track the feeling is different, depending on temperature, if it rains or not, and so on, so we’ll see what it’s like tomorrow and do our best, like always.”
Alex Rins – P8
“It was a bit hard throughout the sessions because the heat was incredible on the track. I struggled a bit, but I’m really happy because, in the beginning, we were suffering until FP3. During FP4 I worked alone to try to get a good race pace and I got it. I was trying to push it to the limit to get into Q2. Finally we achieved it and I’m happy because it is my best qualifying of the season. We will have to wait and see what the weather conditions look like for tomorrow.”
Andrea Iannone – P9
“In general we are not at 100%. I can’t ride as I would like. We have some problems and I suffer a bit with the lack of grip. Until FP3, the situation was more or less not so bad, but then we had an issue during FP4. There was a problem that affected qualifying. So, it was complicated. We did our best with the situation we had, maybe gaining one tenth. The race is tomorrow, so now it’s time to decide the race tires. At the moment it is quite difficult to know which ones are the best for the race.”
Cal Crutchlow – P10
“Today was a lot better day in the dryer conditions, I feel confident and good with the bike. I think we were set for a very good qualifying lap, maybe on the front row, but I made a mistake in turn seven when pushing for the best possible lap time. I lost the front tyre which was a lot better for braking, but not so good for turning. I’m disappointed to be tenth on the grid, but we made fifth position last week from tenth on the grid so we have to stay positive and see what we can do tomorrow in the long race of Malaysia.”
Jack Miller – P11
“We made some changes to the bike for qualifying but it wasn’t perfect and I did a faster time in FP3 this morning. I know the race pace is there, but it is a pity to miss out on doing a faster flying lap for a better spot on the grid. But starting 11th will do me nicely for the race, I’m looking forward to it.”
Pol Espargaro – P12
“I think here for me it’s not easy here as I’ve struggled quite a lot but today I think I’ve done one of my best laps ever. The bike has improved so much as I took 1.1 seconds off my lap time from the test again going forward to Q2. The crash was very unlucky as I think I could have done a 1m 59s which would’ve been massive for the guys working so hard on this project as it proves the bike is getting better and better. In fact, looking at the ideal time of my best sectors it was a 1m 59.9 so that’s a massive step we’ve made. Physically I’m OK but in these conditions everything is so much harder so I’m lucky not to have any pain. The race is tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it rain or shine.”
Moto2 – Morbidelli on pole in dramatic qualifying
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) set himself up for a final push towards the Championship crown on Saturday at Sepang, taking pole by just 0.026 ahead of Phillip Island winner Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – despite a lowside crash for the points leader. Also within a tenth of pole, rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) pulled out a stunner for P3 and his first ever front row in the intermediate class.
Franco Morbidelli – P1
“Starting the biggest race of my career from pole position is just perfect. I was strong in FP3 this morning and right from the start of qualifying I felt good on the bike, even if the conditions were some of the toughest you can experience. I was confident I could find a bit more time at the end of the session and when I was pushing at my maximum I made the mistake at turn seven. I am fine and the bike wasn’t badly damaged so I could make a few more laps. I’m ready for tomorrow and we know what is at stake. We have worked so hard to be in this position that we must make another big push now to get over the finish line. I’ll try and relax tonight and treat tomorrow as normally as I can.”
Miguel Oliveira – P2
“I felt very good today. I’m very happy with this second position, and with getting back on the front row. I think we can say that we are a little more consistent than at Phillip Island. Tomorrow will be a battle of attrition in a way, because it is very hot, we will lose a lot of grip and it is easy to crash over the course of the race. We will be aware of all these factors and of the weather, which can change at any time; as always we will go out to enjoy ourselves and give everything in the race.”
The big headline from the session, however, was a huge highside crash for Championship contender Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten), with the Swiss rider getting to his feet but headed to the Medical Center for a check up. Lüthi was fifth fastest, with EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider Alex Marquez just beating him to fourth. Rookie of the Year Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took sixth to complete Row 2.
Álex Márquez – P4
“I’m quite satisfied to finish qualifying in fourth position but it is always nice to be starting on the front row. I was inside the top three for most of the session and I only got pushed out right at the end, so I can’t be too disappointed. I’m happy with my performance in qualifying because we struggled a bit this morning in FP3. We found some good improvements with the bike in what was a difficult session, with the heat and humidity making it very physically demanding. We now have to wait and see what happens with the weather but I feel we can fight for the podium in both the dry and the wet.”
Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) was top Suter in seventh, just ahead of the second KTM of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) locks out the third row, with Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) completing the top ten despite a crash early in the session.
Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) lines up for his home race in eleventh, ahead of Axel Pons (RW Racing GP), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) and Isaac Viñales (BE-A-VIP SAG Team).
Aussie Remy Gardner will start from 25th.
Moto3 – Mir takes first pole of the year
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) has taken his first pole position of the season – and his second ever – a week after wrapping up the 2017 crown at Phillip Island. Almost half a second quicker than the previous lap record for Jack Miller that has stood since 2014, Mir made his final lap count and beat a lap from Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) that had seemed a done deal for pole.
Martin lines up second, with British Talent Team rider John McPhee completing the front row as the last man within a second of the top.
Jorge Martin – P2
“I’m really pleased with how today went as I think we did a good job. I was able to lap a lot on my own and I think we have a good pace for tomorrow’s race. I hope that missing on pole position today will turn into a better result tomorrow, and I hope I’ll have fun on my Honda and that we’ll get in the mix for the win. Heat will be a problem – as usual – but we’re physically prepared, and the key will be to save the tyres in order to be competitive in the last part of the race.”
Conditions were dry and skies were blue for qualifying, and it seemed Martin’s early effort to top the timesheets would reign supreme. But after winning the Championship last time out, Mir threw everything at the chance to take his first pole of the year – and broke the lap record.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) heads up the second row as a late improver, with Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing Team) remounting from a slow spin at Turn 1 to take fifth. Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) was sixth quickest, but the Frenchman faces a three-place grid penalty handed out at Phillip Island.
Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) will therefore benefit after going seventh fastest in qualifying, ahead of Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) and Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0). Niccolo Antonelli (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) completed the fastest ten men.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took P11, P12 and P13 respectively, with Canet so far having a more difficult weekend in the dry but finding supremacy in the wet. Ayumu Sasaki was fourteenth quickest and the fastest rookie, just ahead of teammate Adam Norrodin as the two SIC Racing Team bikes round out the fastest fifteen, racing at home.
Now race day awaits, with Mir looking to chase more records, Martin searching for his first win, and McPhee aiming for a bounce back to rostrum form. The lights go out at 12:00 (GMT +8).
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.