MotoGP championship leader Marc Marquez has just edged out a resurgent Valentino Rossi for pole position for tomorrow's inagural Thai Grand Prix, taking the top spot from the Italian after working his way through from Q1 after a crash in the morning. But Rossi, who will be joined on the front row by Andrea Dovizioso, nonetheless finsihes the day delighted with strong pace from the Yamaha after a difficult season.
The headlines began early as Jorge Lorenzo was forced to forfeit his chance to fight for a fourth consecutive pole and another win, with the Spaniard withdrawing from the event following his huge crash in FP2. Then another crash made waves as Marquez fell at the end of FP3 and in doing so lost his chance to move through to Q2 - but the number 93 made the most of that, however, to make another record and become the first rider to come through Q1 and subsequently take pole.
Just off the tantalising trio on the front row, Maverick Viñales took fourth and is well within striking distance of the win if Yamaha’s form continues on to Sunday, and Cal Crutchlow is top independent rider once again in fifth. The second row is completed by Andrea Iannone, whose improved form at Buriram after a more difficult preseason test at the venue saw him take sixth.
Seventh on the grid is Dani Pedrosa, who took his second top eight qualifying since last being on the front row in Jerez. Pedrosa was also fastest at the Thai test, which bodes well for race day. He edged Johann Zarco by a tiny margin of 0.013, with Danilo Petrucci completing the third row in ninth – just ahead of teammate Jack Miller, who has plenty of home fans who have made the trip up from Australia.
Alex Rins starts 11th after joining Marquez in graduating from Q1, with Alvaro Bautista completing the Q2 classification in 12th – and just 0.888 separating the top 12 in qualifying.
Franco Morbidelli beat Takaaki Nakagami to 13th as they battle over the honour of top rookie, with Bradley Smith completing the fastest fifteen on Saturday.
Records, drama and mere thousandths of a second characterised Saturday at Buriram. On Sunday, things heat up even further in the race – with pace a different matter over a long run of laps in the Thai heat. Will Marquez extend his lead as he hones in on the crown? Can Dovizioso make a last-ditch effort to still the tide? Or will Yamaha leap back on to the top step in Thailand?