Jorge Martin looks set for a championship showdown with Marco Bezzecchi in tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix after narrowly beating the Italian to pole position at Sepang. Martin struck late on to claim his eleventh pole position of the season but with Bezzecchi just three hundredths of a second adrift in second, the Spaniard will have to work hard to preserve his 12-point championship lead.
The lightweight class riders had a far-from-ideal build-up to qualifying with all three practice sessions disrupted by rain. When qualifying began though on a dry track, the session had been largely dominated by John McPhee who took provisional pole at the ten-minute mark, becoming the first rider to dip below the 2m13 barrier. Although Bezzecchi briefly moved ahead, the Scotsman stamped his authority immediately to regain top spot, pulling six tenths clear of his nearest challenger.
As is so often the case in Moto3, pole position would be decided by a late dash on a new set of tyres and McPhee extended his lead still further with a matter of seconds remaining, clocking a 2:12.018. Other riders were setting rapid sector times behind him though and Martin’s unrivalled qualifying speed came to the fore once again as the championship leader completed the fastest ever Moto3 lap of Sepang, a 2:11.731.
Bezzecchi all-but matched his title rival, securing second spot on the grid, while Friday pacesetter Tony Arbolino secured the last place on the front row, relegating McPhee to fourth. Phillip Island winner Albert Arenas will start fifth ahead of Enea Bastianini while Tatsuki Suzuki heads an all-Japanese third row, joined by Kazuki Masaki and Ayumu Sasaki.
Fabio Di Giannantonio, the outsider in the three-way title fight, will have to recover from thirteenth on the grid.
Moto3 Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix (Qualifying)
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