Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) stormed to Moto2™ pole position at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, setting the only 2:05 time in qualifying to better closest challenger Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) by 0.488 seconds. 2:05.629 was the lap, with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors - Speed Up) completing the front row of the grid at the Sepang International Circuit.
#MotoGP Qualifying ????— MotoGP™???????????? (@MotoGP) November 3, 2018
Despite a late crash, @alexmarquez73's early record-breaking lap time is enough for pole! ????@Luca_Marini_97 grabs P2 on the grid ahead of @FabioQ20! #MalaysianGP ???????? pic.twitter.com/YajXJe2uBf
From the outset, it was Marquez who looked menacing and sure enough on his third flying lap, the Spaniard set a sensational 2:05.629 to go 0.692 faster than anyone else. The gauntlet was well and truly thrown down, with Quartararo and Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) sitting as his two closest challengers in P2 and P3 – 0.026 separating the duo, with Marini just 0.009 off a provisional front row with 15 minutes to go.
The timing screens then went stagnant in Sepang and that seemed to be that, with no one able to vastly improve on their early laps. However, this then changed when Marini went from P4 to P2 with under five minutes remaining, the gap to Marquez still 0.488 though. Quartararo, after being pushed down to P3 by Marini, then set a personal best lap, but it wasn’t enough to improve his position as the standings were set.
So it was Marquez who took pole – despite a late crash at Turn 1 – to continue his dominant weekend, with Marini and Quartararo joining him on the front row. Fourth place went to Gardner, the Australian producing career-best qualifying in P4 to finish just 0.052 off the front row, with Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) lining up alongside him in P5.
Then came the two Championship protagonists. Overall standings leader Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) lines up on the outside of the second row in P6, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) starting just behind the Italian in P7 – the duo playing a little bit of cat and mouse in qualifying as tensions start to rise, with Bagnaia able to clinch the Moto2™ title on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) ended qualifying in P8, 0.070 away from Oliveira’s time, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) completing the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.
Rafid Topan Sucipto (Forward Racing Team) – replacement for the injured Stefano Manzi – crashed during the session – rider ok.
Marquez looks like he’s going to take some beating in Malaysia, but the bigger story is can Bagnaia seal the World Championship? The two title rivals line up in tandem on the grid, with Oliveira out to put the celebrations on hold. An intriguing encounter awaits, tune in for all the action at 13:20 local time (GMT +8).