Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang: Qualifying roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa produced an incredible lap in Q2 to secure his first pole position since the Catalan GP in 2014 and 28th in MotoGP™. The Spaniard has almost been the forgotten man at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after all of the attention that has been placed on the comments between Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He responded by blowing all of his rivals away by over four-tenths of a second to set a 1’59.053 in the hot and humid conditions (Track temp. 44˚C), the fastest ever lap by a MotoGP™ bike at the Sepang International Circuit.
Pedrosa had earlier topped FP4 and carried that form into Q2, setting the time on his very first run. Despite most riders trying a two-stop strategy to try and beat him, it was good enough for pole and was incredibly over seven-tenths under Marquez’s 2014 Pole Record (1’59.791).
His teammate Marquez made it a Repsol Honda 1-2 in the grid for tomorrow’s race but found himself 0.409s off the pace of Pedrosa. It is Marquez’s 15th front row start of the season, although he was left frustrated after a huge moment during his second stint prevented him from making the most of his two-stop strategy.
The man who leads the championship by a slender 11-point margin, Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi (+0.673s), left it late to secure the final front row spot at the expense of his teammate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi had been in fourth as the checkered flag was waved, but managed to put in his best time on his last lap to leapfrog Lorenzo on the timing screens and relegate him to fourth. There had been some fun and games between Rossi and Marquez in FP3 & FP4 as Marquez appeared to be following the Italian, much to Rossi’s chagrin, but it didn’t stop the ‘Doctor’ from going on to secure only his fifth front row start of the season by just 0.011s from his teammate.
Lorenzo (+0.684s) therefore will have to start from the front of the second row in what is his worst qualifying performance since Assen. The two-time MotoGP™ World Champion trails Rossi by 11 points in the standings and knows he ideally needs to win in Sepang and put as many riders in between he and his teammate as possible if he hopes to lift the title. Lorenzo had earlier crashed for only the third time in 2015 at turn 15 during FP4, but luckily for his title hopes he was unhurt. He did though end up having to use his second bike for his first two runs in Q2, before his first bike was repaired in time for his third stint.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (+1.146s) qualified as the leading Satellite rider in fifth. The Brit set his best time on his final flying lap to claim his seventh second row start of the year. Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone (+1.171s) completes the second row for Sunday’s race as he once again showed good pace on the Ducati GP15. The Italian had been down in eighth on the combined times after FP3, but improved to finish just 0.025s behind Crutchlow.
His teammate Andrea Dovizioso will start from the head of the third row, ahead of the two men who made it through from Q1, Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in eighth and ninth respectively.
Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera completes the top ten after the Spaniard made it through to Q2 automatically for just the second time this season after Brno. He will start from the head of the fourth row as the leading Open class rider after his best qualifying performance of the year, ahead of the Espargaro brothers, with Aleix (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in eleventh after crashing late on and Pol (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in twelfth.
EG 0,0 Marc VDS’s Brit rider Scott Redding will start from 15th, while Australian Jack Miller is the leading Open class Honda in 16th. American Nicky Hayden (Aspar MotoGP Team) will start from 19th as he out-qualified his Irish teammate Eugene Laverty in 22nd.
Derendinger Racing Interwetten’s Thomas Luthi set a 2’06.383 on just his third lap of the session to record his eighth career GP pole position, smashing Pol Espargaro’s 2012 Pole Record (2’06.962) by over half a second in the process. The thunder and rain came with 15 minutes left in the session, effectively ending anyone’s chances of beating this time and bringing Qualifying to a rather subdued end. It is only the third time that Luthi will start from the front row in 2015 as the Swiss rider topped a session that saw over a second separate the top 7 riders.
Ajo Motorsport’s Johann Zarco will start from the front row for the 13th time this season as he set a time good enough for second, just 0.127s off the pace of Luthi. The French rider is aiming for the eighth win of his championship-winning season come Sunday.
Paginas Amarillas HP40’s Moto2™ rookie of the year, Alex Rins (+0.454s), will start from third with the Spaniard claiming his ninth front row start of the season. AGR Team’s Jonas Folger (+0.687s) finds himself on the second row for the fifth time this season as he starts from 4th.
Forward Racing’s Lorenzo Baldassari (+0.816s) improved dramatically from 11th on the combined timesheets after FP3 to qualify in fifth. It was the 18-year-olds best ever Moto2™ qualifying result and follows on from his career-first Moto2™ podium at Phillip Island.
Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese (+0.841s) will start the race from sixth in his best qualifying result since he started from fourth at Brno. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Sam Lowes (Speed Up Racing), Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) completed the top ten.
EG 0,0 Marc VDS’s Tito Rabat is missing the Malaysian GP to allow him to focus on recovering from the broken radius in his left arm.
Ongetta-Rivacold’s Niccolo Antonelli left it late to set a 2’12.653 to claim pole at the Sepang International Circuit in an incredibly tight session that saw less than a second separate the top 14 riders. The 19-year-old Italian kept a cool head in a session that once again saw a number of riders riding slowly on the racing line, with a number of penalties given out once more. It is Antonelli’s first pole since Brno and he finished 0.047s ahead of Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Jorge Navarro in second.
Navarro had been down in eighth after FP3 on combined times, but improved by over seven-tenths in the hotter conditions (Track temp. 43˚C) during Qualifying to claim his fifth front row start of 2015. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira (0.240s) completed the front row, as the Portuguese rider aims to prevent Kent winning the title at Sepang. It was Oliveira’s 7th front row start of the year.
Drive M7 SIC’s Jakub Kornfeil (+0.334s) will start from fourth at his team’s home grand prix in his best qualifying performance since eh qualified in the same position at Le Mans. The Czech rider clearly making use of the fact his team gets to test a lot at the circuit in the offseason.
Sky Racing Team VR46’s Romano Fenati (+0.616s) will start from the middle of the second row for the second race in a row, ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (+0.888s) on the Mapfre Team Mahindra in sixth. It was Bagnaia’s best qualifying performance since he qualified in third at Le Mans. Leopard Racing’s Efren Vazquez (+0.303s) will start from the head of the third row after originally qualifying in fourth. The Spaniard being one of the riders to receive a three-place gird penalty for riding slowly on the racing line.
Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) is eighth, ahead of Championship leader Kent (+0.341s) who will start from the back of the third row. Kent was another of the riders to receive a penalty after originally qualifying in sixth. The Brit being penalized three places for riding slowly on the racing line after getting frustrated at riders trying to get a tow from him during the session. Kent even went through pit-lane at one point to try to lose the line of riders behind him in the last few minutes. Eventually he shook most of them off and managed to set a flying lap that was good enough for sixth, before he was relegated to ninth.
Local hero Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Drive M7 SIC) completed the top ten in what is his best qualifying performance since he started from the front row at Indianapolis. Scotsman John McPhee recovered from a huge crash in FP3 to qualify in 12th. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (23rd) and Gabriel Rodrigo (20th) were caught up in an incident at turn 15 that saw both men crash out, while Ana Carrasco will be forced to start from 29th on the grid after a big crash at turn 5 halfway through the session.
Andrea Migno (27th), Isaac Viñales (18th), Manuel Pagliani (30th) and Remy Gardner (31st) were the other riders to be hit with a three-place grid penalty by Race Direction.
Alessandro Tonucci was declared unfit after a crash in FP2, while Andrea Locatelli withdrew from the weekend after FP1 due to pain from his injured coccyx.