Moto2™ World Championship leader Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will start the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia from pole position ahead of his first match point Sunday, as the Japanese rider’s 2:06.405 saw him beat Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) by 0.083s. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) rounds out the front row of the grid in P3, with title-chasing Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) settling for P6.
Ogura puts the pressure on Fernandez in qualifying
Moto2™’s qualifying story was all about two riders: Ogura and Fernandez. A huge 15 minutes awaited the duo in Q2 as Q1 graduate Filip Salač (Gresini Racing Moto2™) suffered an early crash, but there was no such worries for Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – the Italian set a 2:06.488 to go quickest early in the session.
With seven minutes left, Ogura made his move to the top of the timesheets. 0.083s was the Free Practice pacesetter’s advantage over Arbolino, with Fernandez P6 heading into the final six minutes. It was a quiet couple of minutes that followed though as most of the field pitted, with Fernandez needing to find three tenths to beat his title rival.
However, nothing was coming on his final flying effort. And, crucially, no one was able to better Ogura’s time and for the third time this season, the Japanese star bagged pole position. A late charge from teammate Somkait Chantra saw the Thai rider pounce up to P7, one place behind Fernandez – how important could that be on Sunday afternoon?
The top ahead of a huge Sunday at Sepang
Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) fronts the second row of the grid in P4, the British rider beat fifth fastest Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) by a slender 0.004s. Fernandez, meanwhile, was just under a tenth away from the front row but starts from P6 – work to do for the future MotoGP™ star.
Chantra’s late charge sees him launch from P7, the Thai star has Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) for company on the third row, with Australian GP winner Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up) closing out the top 10.
A potentially title-defining Sunday is on the horizon. It’s Ogura vs Fernandez, a win and a disaster for the Spaniard is the only way this fascinating title race doesn’t go to the season finale in Valencia. Tune in at 13:20 to see how it plays out.
1. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – 2:06.405
2. Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 0.083
3. Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) + 0.247
4. Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) + 0.296
5. Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) + 0.300
6. Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.333
7. Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) + 0.491
8. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.529
9. Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) + 0.545
10. Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up) + 0.547