If last week’s MotoGP round at Philip Island was the race of the season, then the qualifying session at Sepang today can be rightfully called the best pole-position shootout of the year. In the last two minutes of the qualifying, 5 pole laps were posted by four different riders, but it was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who was the best of the lot as he mugged pole position from Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco by just 0.017s! Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the top 3.
As good as that session was, though, the MalaysianGP is going to be the race where Marc Marquez could wrap up the 2017 championship title as he leads the points table by 33 points. Although Marquez looked fast all weekend, he crashed on the very first lap of the qualifying session. After getting back on the track on his second bike, Marquez still looked good for a second row start as he was the third fastest. However, it wasn’t until the final two minutes when other riders pulling out surprises.
With two minutes to go, Pedrosa was the quickest man on the track. A moment later, Valentino Rossi appeared out of nowhere and jumped to the top of the time-sheet. Dovizioso, however, was not going to give his championship hopes just like that and he posted the best time of the session so as to grab pole position. Zarco had other plans though - the Frenchman posted a lightning quick lap in the last minute to knock Dovizioso from the top spot. The chequered flag was out, and just when it looked like Zarco had it, Pedrosa pulled a scorching lap to steal pole from Zarco.
Pedrosa’s last pole position start was in Barcelona this year, where he went on to win the race. If the conditions at Sepang stay the same as today – sweltering hot that is – don’t be surprised to see Pedrosa win the MalaysianGP.
As for the other contenders, Rossi is placed fourth on the grid, joined by teammate Maverick Vinales and Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo. The championship leader, Marquez, starts from seventh in row three, where he’ll be joined by the Suzuki duo of Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone. Cal Crutchlow of LCR Honda completed the top ten.