SEPANG (AFP) – Recently crowned world champion Marc Marquez will start in top position for Sunday’s Malaysian MotoGP, surpassing the record for the most poles in a single season.
The Spanish Repsol Honda rider clocked a record lap time of one minute 59.791 seconds in Saturday qualifying at Sepang, 0.182 seconds ahead of his team-mate and compatriot Dani Pedrosa.
In third place was Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo, while his Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, who is battling him for the season’s runner-up title, qualified in sixth.
It was Marquez’s 13th pole of the year, breaking the previous record of 12 front-row starts in a season jointly held by Australians Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner.
His flying lap toward the end of the session also broke his own record from qualifying last year of 2 minutes 0.011 seconds. He came second in last year’s race.
Marquez said he was “definitely delighted” with his position after taking a tumble in the fourth practice session.
“In the morning we weren’t able to mount the best attack, but I changed to a second bike after the crash and it was much better,” the 21-year-old said.
“Tomorrow won’t be easy because Dani was also very fast today, but I’m definitely looking to race in dry conditions. If it rains, then it’s a different story.”
The 5.5-kilometre (3.4 mile) Sepang circuit is famed for its hot track temperatures and tropical afternoon downpours. But Saturday’s qualifying remained dry.
Pedrosa, who topped all three practice sessions and has won the last two Malaysian Grand Prix, was the only other rider to finish below the two-minute mark, clocking 1 minute 59.973.
Two-time world champion Lorenzo clocked 2 minutes 0.203, while Germany’s Stefan Bradl and Italy’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified fourth and fifth respectively.
Crowd favourite Rossi trailed 0.949 seconds behind Marquez.
The Italian legend is currently eight points ahead of Lorenzo and hopes to seal the second place in Malaysia, with only Valencia remaining after this.
Marquez, who last year became the youngest MotoGP champion, already clinched this season’s title two races ago in Japan.
But he crashed out in Australia last weekend, denying him the chance to equal Australian Mick Doohan’s record of 12 wins in a single season. Rossi won the Australian Grand Prix instead.
Spain’s Pol Espargaro missed qualifying after he came off his bike in the third practice session held earlier Saturday.
The Monster Yamaha rider’s machine was engulfed in flames moments after he hit the asphalt, causing him to break a bone in his left foot. His fitness to race will be assessed on Sunday morning.