Luis Salom heads into tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix with a significant advantage over his two title rivals after claiming pole position on Saturday. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider, who leads the title chase by nine points, timed his late charge perfectly to beat surprise challengers Alexis Masbou and Niccolo Antonelli with the other championship contenders starting a little lower than normal.
A downpour during the final Moto2 practice session presented the junior class with a damp circuit for the start of their session and unsurprisingly, the times were significantly slower early on. The chief beneficiaries of the mixed conditions were CIP duo Alan Techer and Juanfran Guevara who held a surprise 1-2 at the halfway stage.
Once conditions were suitable for slicks, the TSR riders slipped back though with Alex Rins hitting the front for the first time with a quarter of an hour to go. Rins was quickly demoted by Salom but when the Estrella Galicia rider returned for the garage for new tyres, he had regained provisional pole with a 2:14.917.
The late charge for grid positions began with seven minutes to go as Efren Vazquez grabbed second for Mahindra, only to be knocked back by Maverick Vinales who set his first genuinely competitive lap of the afternoon but his 2:15.371 was nothing on Salom who clocked a 2:14.459 to snatch back pole position. With a half second advantage, top spot looked secure but the championship leader tightened his grip with a 2:13.867 next time around.
That would prove crucial as Masbou and Antonelli, who had been quick in the wet earlier on, both broke into the 2:13s to join Salom on the front row. Miguel Oliveira and Alex Marquez also improved late on to qualify fifth and sixth which all pushed Alex Rins down to sixth, the in-form Spaniard left frustrated by traffic.
Jack Miller used the benefit of being last man over the line to grab seventh ahead of Vazquez while Vinales’ failure to improve saw him demoted to ninth, one place ahead of Jonas Folger. John McPhee would have preferred a wet session after crashing in the dry this morning but the improvement in the weather worked against him, the Scot ending up 22nd on the grid.