Marc Marquez secured an 80th career pole position after he was the early master of the wet Q2 conditions at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but there was a small bump back to Earth not long after for the reigning World Champion as he later crashed - and then another as he was given a six-place grid penalty for irresponsible riding. The number 93 impeded Andrea Iannone and will now start seventh.
That means an independent rider will start from pole, with Johann Zarco now on top after going second quickest in the session. Valentino Rossi starts second, and fittingly, it's Iannone now completing that front row.
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Back at the beginning it was Marquez who led the field over the line and set the first benchmark; a 2:13.641 to edge out Jack Miller, who was just behind the Spaniard on track. Iannone was also within a tenth after the first lap, with a mere 0.051 splitting the top three, but 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 put him a full 1.264 quicker than the man who'd taken over at the top, Danilo Petrucci, as the world champion put some serious daylight between himself and his rivals. The Repsol Honda rider then lost the front at turn four however, and there was no saving this one.
The field then set about trying to beat Marquez' marker. Andrea Dovizioso shot up to second but was still over a second off and then on his final flying lap and then Italian crashed at turn nine, before Iannone went up to second but the gap was remained 0.936. A flying Frenchman then propelled himself into second with Zarco cutting the gap to eight tenths and fellow YZR-M1 rider Rossi then leapfrogging him.
Zarco put in a personal best lap to re-take second from Rossi, but the gap between the number 93 and his rivals remained 0.548 after a masterclass from Marquez for his 80th career pole position across all classes. Then, though, news came through of the penalty and although it remains a Marquez pole in the statistics, he'll be starting seventh.
That means Dovizioso starts fourth despite his crash, with fellow Desmosedici rider Miller ending the session sixth after setting his best lap on his final lap. He now starts in the middle of a second row completed by teammate Danilo Petrucci. Marquez heads row three, ahead of Friday’s quickest rider Alex Rins and Q1 graduate Alvaro Bautista.
Dani Pedrosa, Australian GP winner Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro line up on a super-powered row four.
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