Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang: Moto3 qualifying round-up
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has stolen a stunning last minute pole position at Sepang International Circuit, after the fight seemed set as a duel between Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) on a very wet track.
EG 0,0 rider Navarro was on provisional pole, in the damp, when the heavens then really opened and drenched the circuit. With the Red Flag coming out soon after, the grid were left waiting in pitlane for conditions to improve enough to head out with 19 minutes left on the clock. After being given the go ahead, the riders got back on track for a final showdown – with it seeming unlikely that laptimes would improve, leaving Navarro on pole.
The story wasn’t over however, as Jorge Martin (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) started to show improvements in some sectors – and the race was on to push on. In the final few minutes, it became a two man duel for the top between Francesco Bagnaia and Navarro – with the Spaniard emerging on top to take back provisional pole.
With the flag out, it seemed a done deal – with only Binder left on a lap that could challenge. Over a tenth off in sector three, pole position seemed a long shot – until the new World Champion crossed the line to get back into the red in the final sector and take pole.
With the South African heading the Spaniard and Italian on the front row, Row 2 is headed up by Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Sky Racing Team VR46), who put in an incredible performance to prove the fastest of the three VR46 team riders, ahead of Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) who, despite a front end crash in the wet, completes the top five.
Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) had had a tough weekend at the Malaysian GP until QP and had often found himself outside the top echelons of the timesheets, before a big improvement in the difficult conditions of qualifying saw the Italian move up to P6, just ahead of his 2017 teammate Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Jorge Martin qualified in eighth after proving an early improver in the wet, ahead of Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing), who has shown pace all weekend in the wet and dry at Sepang – despite missing the 2015 weekend due to injury and effectively riding at the track as a rookie.
Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was another late improver in the session as he made it up to tenth, shaking off a highside crash suffered earlier in the day as he competes in Sepang fresh from his first podium at Phillip Island.
It was a more difficult session for home heroes Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) but both remained inside the top twenty in the challenging conditions, in P18 and P20 respectively.
Moto3™ head out to get down to racing at 12:00 local time (GMT+8) on Sunday, as Binder tries for another miracle in his quest to become the World Champion with the biggest points margin in history.