Thomas Luthi took his first ever pole position in the intermediate class on a potentially decisive day in the championship battle, as Stefan Bradl and Marc Marquez qualified at opposite ends of the grid in Malaysia.
Marquez's weekend went wrong right at the start when he crashed in FP1, landing heavily on his head and neck and the Spaniard was clearly struggling with the injury on Saturday. After sitting out the final practice session, the 18 year old headed into qualifying with no track time under his belt but the CatalunyaCaixa Repsol team had a very simple strategy in mind.
Clearly short of full fitness, Marquez took the track at the beginning of the session, completing one solitary hot lap before returning to the pits and retiring. The plan to get within the 107% cut-off was successfully executed, allowing him another 24 hours to rest up before the race, but this left Bradl with a golden opportunity.
The championship leader looked intent on taking it as he stormed to the top of the timesheets early on, setting the fastest lap of the weekend on just his second attempt. Luthi followed him after his initial run while Michele Pirro moved up to third despite a crash on his Gresini Moriwaki.
A period of calm followed with few riders able to make any improvements whatsoever but Luthi bucked the trend with a stunning lap four minutes from time, taking provisional pole on a 2:07.512. Bradl charged back out to try and reclaim the top spot but couldn't improve on his 2:07.724, having to settle for second, but with Marquez mired down in 36th, the Kalex rider has been handed an unlikely opportunity to clinch the title tomorrow.
After his earlier crash, Pirro made it back out in the closing minutes only to crash again, but the Italian held on to the final place on the front row with teammate Yuki Takahashi following him close behind in fourth. Like Takahashi, Pol Espargaro delivered his quickest lap of the weekend in the dying seconds to take fifth, sneaking ahead of his older brother Aleix.
Mika Kallio will head up the third row for Marc VDS Racing ahead of Claudio Corti, who will hope to go one better than last weekend when he came agonizingly close to his maiden podium. Scott Redding will start alongside in ninth after a late flyer pulled him out of the midfield while Mattia Pasini rounds out the top ten after beating Phillip Island winner Alex de Angelis by 0.003s.