Valentino Rossi enjoyed his best qualifying session of the season at Sepang, scoring second on the grid for Sunday’s Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Indeed the result for the nine-time World Champion is also his best qualifying result since Motegi 2010 - and puts him in a strong position ahead of the 15th race of the season.
The 15-minute Q2 took place with uncertain track conditions after a pre-session rain shower tested rider skill to the limit. Having saved a big moment at turn six on his first lap, Rossi put his head down and set a 2’03.499 to take provisional pole position.
A flurry of activity at the top followed and the multi-title winner came in to change to a fresh rear tyre in third position. As the last minutes counted down Rossi became a key protagonist in the battle for pole, delivering a scorching 2’00.336 lap to take another provisional pole, a position he held for a few seconds before a final hot lap from rival Marc Marquez moved him to second, 0.325s from pole.
"I’m very happy about today," Rossi beamed afterwards. "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, I have to say thank you to my Yamaha!"
He added, "After that I tried to push and I made a very good lap time, especially considering the conditions. Now we wait for tomorrow and I hope it will be dry because I think in the dry we are very competitive."
Defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo shared a similar experience to his teammate Rossi, having a big moment at turn six on his first lap. Like Rossi he was also able to save it and then returned to the pits to watch the session unfold and decide on a strategy.
As the lap times began to tumble he came back out with six minutes remaining and immediately took provisional pole with a 2’00.792 second lap. He kept the pressure on, immediately dropping further with 2’00.578. A lack of trust in the track conditions held him back from attempting a perfect lap, his time good enough to take fourth on the grid on the second row, 0.567s from pole.
Lorenzo commented, "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."