World Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took his fourth consecutive pole, and eighth pole position of the season, with a new lap record at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday.
Multiple Sepang winner Valentino Rossi lines up second from Britain’s Cal Crutchlow, with title contenders Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa on the second row of the grid.
Marc Marquez: “I’m really happy with this pole position, particularly as earning it was a little different to my previous poles. At the start of qualifying there were two completely wet corners, which made it hard to put in a hot lap as we had to calculate the amount of risk, whilst still maintaining our speed. I knew that the final lap of the session would be definitive, because the surface was drying out and conditions were getting better by the minute. Things worked out for us and I set a time that I really wasn’t expecting. Tomorrow will be a different story, because Lorenzo and Dani both have a great pace, so we shall see if we have a bit of good fortune and the conditions remain dry.”
Rain fell on part of the circuit just before the start of the session, but slick tyres were used throughout.
Having crashed out in dramatic fashion at MotorLand Aragon, it was Pedrosa who topped the first three practice sessions at the Sepang International Circuit. However, when it came to qualifying the 2012 race winner was unable to muster anything other than fifth place, six tenths of a second down on Marquez’s 2’00.011 pole which establishes a new qualifying record for the venue.
In a repeat of the German GP front row, albeit with the second and third-placed riders reversed, Rossi and Crutchlow will start second and third for their respective Yamaha Factory Racing and Monster Yamaha Tech3 outfits. In the case of the nine-time champion, he provisionally held pole position after enjoying a slipstream from Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso down the back straight, whereas Crutchlow celebrates a first front row start since his home race at Silverstone last month.
Valentino Rossi: “I’m very happy about today, from this morning we really improved the bike. We worked hard with the team this weekend and I like the set up a lot, I can really push and have a good pace. Just before qualifying it started to rain and everything became more difficult. I expected it to be full dry but two or three corners were not, I had a big moment on the first lap and I was very happy to not crash.”
Cal Crutchlow: “I am really happy to be back on the front row because it was not an easy session at all,” said the Englishman. “It was hard with a dark visor to see where the track was wet and in some corners it was pretty tricky. It was a bit of a lottery with the damp sections and I think it came down to who was willing to take the most risks right at the end when the track was improving.”
Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing), who won his first MotoGP title at Sepang in 2010, will start fourth after missing out on pole by half a second. Behind the reigning World Champion, Marquez’s team-mate Pedrosa missed the front row despite his rapid pace throughout practice.
Jorge Lorenzo: “Today we improved the bike a lot and I feel much more comfortable than yesterday. I did a long run in free practice which went quite well. Then before qualifying we changed the bike a little and we were able to improve it further. The problem was in some corners, especially in turn six and turn seven as it was wet. On my second lap I almost crashed there so I didn’t trust the corners to be able to make a perfect lap.”
The championship contenders will be accompanied on Row 2 by Alvaro Bautista; incidentally, the GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider will rise to sixth in the riders’ standings if he finishes fifth or higher in the race. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was put out of action after suffering a right ankle fracture through a crash in final practice.
Row 3 will consist of Tech3’s Bradley Smith, equaling his second best MotoGP qualifying position of seventh from the aforementioned Dovizioso and lead CRT runner Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar), who passed through to the final shootout from Q1.
Andrea Iannone rounds out the top ten for Energy T.I. Pramac Racing from Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, whereas the absent Bradl was classified 12th but is now set to undergo surgery. This promotes NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards to a fourth row position, with the grid completed by Damian Cudlin who contrary to initial plans races again with PBM this weekend.
Heading into Sunday’s race, and with rain expected by many, Marquez heads Lorenzo in the standings by 39 points. Pedrosa is third overall and 59 points off the lead, meaning he will be mathematically ruled out of title contention if Marquez wins and Pedrosa fails to score points in Sunday’s 15th round of the campaign.
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 2m 0.011s (Lap 7/7)
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 2m 0.336s (7/7)
3. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 2m 0.359s (7/7)
4. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 2m 0.578s (5/5)
5. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 2m 0.692s (7/7)
6. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 2m 0.974s (7/7)
7. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 2m 1.306s (7/7)
8. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 2m 1.635s (6/6)
9. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 2m 2.151s (2/3)
10. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 2m 2.536s (7/7)
11. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 2m 2.900s (6/7)
12. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) No Time
13. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 2.858s (2/6)
14. Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 3.175s (2/6)
15. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 3.212s (6/7)
16. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 3.418s (4/7)
17. Yonny Hernandez COL Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 2m 3.651s (6/7)
18. Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 2m 3.805s (4/7)
19. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 2m 4.198s (3/7)
20. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 4.310s (3/7)
21. Luca Scassa ITA Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 2m 5.199s (6/7)
22. Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) 2m 6.038s (3/6)
23. Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 6.203s (2/6)
24. Damian Cudlin AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT)* 2m 6.273s (4/6)
* Standard ECU.
Fastest practice time:
Dani Pedrosa ESP Honda 2m 0.554s (FP2)
Official Malaysian MotoGP records:
Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha2m 0.334s (2012)
Fastest race lap:
Casey Stoner AUS Ducati2m 2.108s (2007)
Fastest lap in 2013 pre-season testing:
Dani Pedrosa ESP Honda 2m 0.100s
Unofficial fastest Sepang test lap:
Casey Stoner AUS Honda 1m 59.607s (February 2, 2012)