Martin produces Malaysian magic to take Moto3™ pole

A record-breaking final lap sees the Championship leader spearhead the grid with title rival Bezzecchi P2

Moto3™ Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) took pole for the 11th time in 2018 at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after setting a new lightweight class qualifying lap record. The Spaniard heads main title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) by 0.032, with Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) continuing his strong weekend to take P3 on the grid.

It was John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) who led for the majority of the session and with 15 minutes remaining, despite Bezzecchi briefly taking over at the top, McPhee then moved the goal posts again – his advantage sitting at an impressive 0.584. However, this was immediately trimmed to 0.052 with Martin going second fastest, with Free Practice’s fastest man Arbolino then jumping up to second – 0.020 now the gap between the top two.

The standings remained the same before it was time for the final lap dash, with Martin and Bezzecchi both leaving it late to head out – the latter crossing the line with four seconds of the session remaining. Arbolino, Martin and Bezzecchi all had red sectors in the opening two sectors, but provisional pole man McPhee was also looking to increase his advantage – and that’s exactly what he did. However, it was only by 0.060, with the three riders behind all on fast laps.

Martin came across the line to top McPhee’s new benchmark by 0.350, as Arbolino slotted into P2 after he also beat the Scotsman's time. Bezzecchi then went quicker than both McPhee and Arbolino, but lost out to his title rival by a slender 0.032. Nonetheless, the top two in the Championship lock out the top two grid slots to set us up for a tantalising race.

Arbolino and McPhee remained P3 and P4 respectively after great qualifying sessions for both, with Australian GP winner Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) slotting into P5 on his last flying lap – 0.480 separating him from pole. Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) was lingering down in P20 with 15 minutes remaining, however, the Italian was able to string together a solid final lap to line up on the outside of the second row – P6.

It’s all about the Japanese riders on row three. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) sits P7 to lead Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) in P8 and P9 respectively. Rounding out the top ten was the returning Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), an impressive session from the Italian as he continues to recover from his Japanese GP injuries.

Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) suffered a crash at Turn 3 early in the session and headed to the medical centre for a checkup – the Spaniard returning to track later on in qualifying.

It’s match point to Martin in Malaysia, but with Bezzecchi breathing down his neck on the starting line, another barnstorming Moto3™ looks set to take place. See who emerges victorious when the title could be decided at 12:00 local time (GMT +8). 

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