SEPANG, Malaysia, Oct 28, (AFP): Dani Pedrosa snatched pole position in the dying seconds of a thrilling qualifying session for the Malaysian MotoGP on Saturday as world title hopeful Marc Marquez recovered from a crash to finish seventh.
Marquez looked on course to set the fastest pace of the weekend in a real fast lap when he fell off his Honda.
Pedrosa, the Spanish Honda rider, came out on top after a furious finale which saw five successive pole laps set in the last two minutes — leaving the top seven riders covered by less than half a second.
Pedrosa’s time of 1min 59.212sec was 17-thousandths quicker than Yamaha’s Johann Zarco, with Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati another seven-thousandths behind to complete the front row. Pedrosa at the trackside later said said he was happy with his machine, adding that starting in the front was important to get a podium finish.
It is Pedrosa’s third pole position of the season and he is fifth in the championship standing.
Pedrosa will aim for his second win of the season and first since Jerez in May.
But the Spaniard admitted that the sweltering heat would be the biggest challenge on Sunday.
Dovizioso’s hopes of stopping Marquez clinching a second straight world title were buoyed when the Honda rider, who crashed at the end of one flying lap, finished outside the top six.
Dovizioso, riding a Ducati, said he was glad to start the race from the front ahead of Marquez who sits in the third row.
Dovizioso later told reporters that while he will be happy to win the second position in the world championship, he was determined to snatch the world title crown.
The Italian declined to reveal his strategy for the race, saying he didn’t know in advance as weather conditions in Sepang was unpredictable.
Last year, Dovizioso won the race at Sepang on a wet track.
Meanwhile, Zarco of France on a Yamaha said he used medium tyres during the qualifying to record a strong lap time. It will a big task for Marquez to overtake from the 3rd back row for a podium finish.
If Marquez comes first or second, regardless of the result that Dovizioso achieves in Malaysia, he will win his fourth MotoGP title.
Spain’s Marquez leads Dovizioso by 33 points going into the year’s penultimate race, meaning he will be crowned world champion if he finishes first or second on Sunday.