Bradley Smith came close to notching his third pole position of the season today at a sweltering hot Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
Air temperatures soared to a scorching 35 degrees but Smith looked like he’d done enough to score his first pole position since the Misano round in early September when he clocked a best time of 2.13.691 on his tenth lap.
That put him comfortably clear of the field but he was denied once again by Derbi rider Marc Marquez in the final seconds.
The Oxfordshire rider said: “We did a great job as a team today although unfortunately it wasn't quite enough to steal pole from Marc, who also made good use of a slipstream.
"Anyway, I'm thankful to Nico because he helped me set a great lap. I made the wrong tyre choice at the end of the session - the soft option was just too soft and it gave us a few problems.
"It doesn't matter because it was just an experiment and we have everything clear for tomorrow. We have found a good set-up and I feel comfortable.
"I think I have the pace to run at the front. It is obviously going to be a long race but my objective will be to follow Marc. Nineteen laps around here will be long but that is what we train for and I know there's nobody out there fitter than me."
Marquez produced a stunning last lap of 2.13.398 to claim his tenth pole position of the campaign by 0.293s.
His quickest time meant he set a new record for 125GP pole positions, beating the previous benchmark of nine set by Roberto Locatelli in 2000 and Mattia Pasini in 2007.
An eighth win of the season in tomorrow’s 18-lap race would strengthen his world title hopes with close rival and compatriot Nicolas Terol in third spot on the grid.
Terol was a massive 0.706s further back on his Aspar Aprilia and he was over four-tenths back on team-mate Smith as he looks to defend a slender six-point advantage over Marquez with four races remaining.
Completing the front row is Pol Espargaro, who is also locked in the title hunt. The Spaniard is 13-points behind Terol and he clocked a best time of 2.14.105. That put him just 0.001s behind Terol.
Danny Webb will start from 12th on the grid having overcome the pain of a damaged hand he suffered in a big practice high-side yesterday. He posted a best time of 2.16.286 to finish one place and 0.106s ahead of impressive teenager Danny Kent.on the Lambretta machine.
With no previous experience of the long and technical Sepang track, the Red Bull Rookies Cup runner-up set a best time of 2.16.392 to finish a massive 1.7s ahead of Lambretta regular Marco Ravaioli who was way down in 23rd.