He mastered the wet Q2 conditions but an incident involving Iannone means Marquez now starts P7, Zarco promoted to pole
UPDATE: After taking pole position by over half a second, 2018 Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has been handed a six-place grid penalty after being deemed to have been riding irresponsibly in an incident with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone in Q2. This now means Marquez will start from P7, with second place Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) promoted to pole, with everyone down to seventh place Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) moving up a position for Sunday’s race.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) secured an 80th career pole position after he mastered the wet Q2 conditions at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix. The 2018 World Champion was in superior form at the Sepang International Circuit to set a quickest lap of 2:12.161 to beat Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) by over half a second in P2, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lining up on the outside of the front row in P3.
It was Marquez who led the field over the line and it was he who set the first benchmark; a 2:13.641 edged out Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) – who was just behind the Spaniard on track – by 0.027, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also within a tenth after the first lap – 0.051 splitting the top three.
With a banker lap under his belt, Marquez then slammed in a rapid second lap to considerably shift the goal posts. A 2:12.161 a full 1.264 quicker than Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) as the World Champion put daylight – and more – between himself and his rivals. However, the Repsol Honda rider then lost the front at Turn 4 and unlike he’s been able to do several times already this weekend, there was no saving this one. Down he went after setting a new session best first sector, but he was back up and in the pits with over three minutes still remaining.
The aforementioned gap was 1.264 seconds, but could it be beaten? Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) shot up to P2, but he was still over a second off and then on his final flying lap, the Italian crashed at Turn 9. Iannone – following Dovi on track – had gone provisional P2 but the gap was still 0.936. A flying Frenchman then propelled himself into second; Zarco cutting the gap to eight tenths, with fellow YZR-M1 rider Rossi then leapfrogging him into second.
In the end, no one could come close to matching Marquez and despite Zarco putting in a personal best lap to re-take P2 from ‘The Doctor’, the gap between the number 93 and his rivals was still 0.548. A masterclass from Marquez in the wet around the Sepang International Circuit, this his 80th career pole position across all classes. Zarco and Rossi join the seven-time Champion on the front row, with Iannone the only other rider within a second of pole – P4 for a second race in a row for ‘The Maniac’.
His late crash meant Dovi had to settle for P5 in Q2, with fellow Desmosedici rider Miller ending the session P6 after setting his best lap on his final lap. Behind the Australian was teammate Danilo Petrucci, with both Alma Pramac Racing riders slipping down the order after sitting on the provisional front row. Friday’s quickest rider Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) will launch from P8, just ahead of Q1 graduate Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) in P9.
Winner at Sepang in the wet conditions in 2012, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) qualified in P10, just ahead of compatriot and Free Practice’s fastest man Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) – P11 for the Australian GP winner. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) will line up in P12, a crash at Turn 4 in Q2 after setting the second quickest time in Q1 ended his hopes of a top ten result.
Marquez reigns in the wet, but with an updated Sunday Time Schedule, the chances of the race being dry have increased. What will the weather bring for the race? Who knows, this is Malaysia after all. But either way it’s set to be a belting battle. Tune in for the premier class race at the new time of 13:00 local time (GMT +8).