Jorge Lorenzo grabbed what could prove to be a crucial pole position in Malaysia, snatching it from pre-session favourite Dani Pedrosa in the dying seconds. The Repsol Honda had proven quicker in both dry practice sessions prior to qualifying but Lorenzo pulled it out of the bag when it mattered, taking pole by two tenths of a second.
Pedrosa’s fastest time earlier this morning of a 2:01.186 was quickly beaten at the start of qualifying but it wasn’t until the final fifteen minutes that the battle really heated up. Few were expecting the first salvo to be fired by Andrea Dovizioso though as the Tech 3 dropped under the 2:01 barrier by a couple of tenths.
Pedrosa reclaimed pole two minutes later with the Spaniard regularly finding time in the final sector of the lap, including the long back straight. His time of 2:00.634 would stand until the final two minutes before Dovizioso edged ahead again, this time by 0.067s. Pedrosa responded with a 2:00.528 although the Spaniard wasn’t proving as dominant as expected relative to the satellite Yamaha.
With seconds remaining, Dani was overtaken by his championship rival as Jorge Lorenzo clocked a 2:00.438 and as if to rub salt in the wound, the no.99 went even faster after the chequered flag had come out, delivering a significant psychological blow to his compatriot. The enthusiastic punching of the air from Jorge on his way back to the pits said it all.
The impressive Dovizioso held on to the final place on the front row, less than a quarter of a second away from pole, while Casey Stoner closed to within half a second of the ultimate pace to qualify fourth, much of the time being lost in sector four. Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies fought out a late battle over fifth which was settled in favour of the Briton thanks to a terrific final lap while Hector Barbera and Stefan Bradl both qualified ahead of Nicky Hayden on the quickest Ducati in ninth.
A late crash at turn seven restricted Alvaro Bautista to tenth but Valentino Rossi had no such reason for his lack of pace, ending up down in eleventh. James Ellison will start sixteenth on the Paul Bird CRT machine with the twenty-man grid completed by Ivan Silva on the sole Avintia Blusens bike. Teammate Yonny Hernandez will not take part tomorrow due to the collarbone injury sustained at Motegi last weekend.