Nicolas Terol has one hand on the 125cc World Championship trophy after snatching pole position in Malaysia, with championship rival Johann Zarco having a nightmare session. The Frenchman crashed out early on leading to frantic activity in the Avant-AirAsia-Ajo garage as they repaired the bike, eventually sending him out with 15 minutes remaining.
Zarco's accident came at turn 11 as the front end of the Derbi washed out and with only one flying lap completed, he tumbled to the bottom of the timesheet. When he re-joined, there were yet more problems as his bike ground to a halt on the out lap. Fortunately he was able to get it restarted and set about climbing up the grid.
His first complete flying lap was a 2:20.215 which only lifted him one position but a 2:17.144 followed next time around to move him up to 19th. After failing to improve on his third attempt, Zarco was left with one final effort and hauled himself onto the fifth row in 15th. That was the good news, the bad news came a few metres behind him as Terol grabbed pole position.
The championship leader had completely dominated the final free practice session and moved straight to the top of the leaderboard in qualifying with a 2:15.720. The in-form Sandro Cortese would go a quarter of a second quicker but Terol was determined to strike before the dark clouds opened overhead.
The Bankia Aspar rider pulled out over a second when he returned to action, clocking a 2:14.394 but Cortese had an answer yet again, sneaking in front by four hundredths.
Hector Faubel suddenly came to life as the final runs began and regained pole for the Aspar squad with a 2:13.594, a time that looked set to remain unbeaten before his teammate's last gasp effort. Terol seemed out of touch with three sectors completed but the 23 year old aced the fourth sector, nipping in front of Faubel by 0.015s.
Faubel will be perfectly placed to assist his teammate's title bid from second while Cortese was the only man to challenge the Spanish duo, comfortably taking third. Efren Vazquez's fourth place was scant consolation for the Avant-AirAsia-Ajo squad although he did well to outpace Luis Salom and Jonas Folger who also improved late on to climb onto the second row.
Maverick Vinales looked like a potential pole challenger early in the session but faded to seventh with Alberto Moncayo and Adrian Martin joining him on the third row, and Danny Kent rounding out the top ten. The British rookie had a nasty highside in final practice but thankfully avoided injury, allowing him to take part in qualifying.
Danny Webb put in a sensational performance to qualify 12th, just the third time this year he will have started on the fourth row while Harry Stafford also impressed to take 19th. Taylor Mackenzie qualified 22nd but his chances of starting look slim after a crash late in the session saw him helped away from the track.