Although he took pole position for Sunday’s MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix by over half a second, newly crowned series 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. The penalty 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.
Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) secured an 80th career pole position after he mastered the wet Q2 conditions. The champion was in superior form at the Sepang International Circuit in setting a quickest lap of 2m12.161s to beat Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3, pictured at left, above) by over half a second in P2, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in P3.
It was Marquez who led the field over the line and it was he who set the first benchmark. A 2m13.641s edged out Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) — who was just behind the Spaniard on track — by 0.027s, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also within a tenth after the first lap — 0.051s 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 2m12.161s a full 1.264s quicker than Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing). 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.
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 had gone provisional P2 but the gap was still 0.936s. Zarco then 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 retake P2 from Rossi, the gap between the No. 93 and its rivals was still 0.548s.
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 Vinales (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-10 result.
UPDATE: In hopes of avoiding forecast heavy rain, series officials have brought Sunday’s race start time forward two hours to 1 p.m. local time (GMT +8).