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Zarco and Rossi lead Yamaha’s Sepang assault

A Marquez penalty means the Frenchman starts from pole with ‘The Doctor’ P2, but can they challenge for victory on Sunday?

Yamaha ended their Grand Prix victory drought last time out at the Australian GP after Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) stormed to victory, and it seems the Iwata factory have carried their form over to the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix: MotoGP™ Q2

It was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who took pole but after a six-place grid penalty, second fastest Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) has been promoted to pole. A third consecutive front row start was on the cards for the Frenchman, but now he will launch from pole for the first time since his home GP at Le Mans.

“I’m so happy. We had special qualifying today, a long wait in the box and I was happy to be straight into Q2 because I could analyse well what happened in Q1,” began Zarco, who will be even happier now he lines up in P1 for Sunday’s race. “First practice on wet conditions and I didn’t get a good feeling with the two soft tyres but immediately when I moved to the other ones, we had good control of the bike and we could do good lap times. So, Marc went so fast. I could maybe think about pole but I have too much of a gap to him and I can enjoy this second place with tricky conditions. I think it’s the best place to start tomorrow.”

Zarco: "The medium tyre was immediately better"

“Finally, we had a good work in the team and we found a solution because on Saturday morning I was fast. And even in FP4 I got a good feeling so now I have a smile and I can wish good things for the race.”

So, what about Rossi? Well, after qualifying in P3, he’ll now start from the middle of the front row in P2 following Marquez’ penalty. He - like fellow Yamaha rider Zarco - is relatively confident he can have a good showing in the race, no matter what the weather brings.

“In the wet I feel not so bad, but it’s difficult to say,” began the nine-time World Champion, who last won at the Sepang International Circuit in 2010. “In the dry, yesterday I was quite strong, today I worked with a used tyre and it looks like I’m not the strongest but my pace is strong, so it looks like I can do a good pace.”

Rossi goes on to mention two names who he thinks have the edge in dry conditions. And one is on the other side of the garage to him: “Today in the dry, Marquez and Viñales are stronger than anybody,” he claimed, but with both of those riders starting off the front two rows, can Rossi make a P2 start count? Time will tell, but he’s in a gaggle of riders – on paper – that aren't too far off.

Good feelings in the wet for Rossi at Sepang

“After them, we have a group of riders, also with me, but we need the last half a second. So, we have to work hard tonight to understand and improve.”

Can it be London buses for Yamaha tomorrow? They waited 25 races for a win, but it seems a second could be just around the corner. Don’t forget there is an updated Sunday time schedule, with all the races being moved forward due to weather concerns.

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