(Reuters) - Championship leader Marc Marquez continued his brilliant MotoGP rookie season by claiming pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix while his main rivals were consigned to the second row at a wet Sepang on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Honda rider’s time of two minutes 0.011 seconds on his seventh and final lap was the quickest ever at the circuit and gave him his eighth pole of the season and a fourth in a row.
“I’m really happy with this pole position particularly as earning it was a little different to my previous poles,” Marquez told MotoGP.com.
“At the start of qualifying there were two completely wet corners which made it hard to put in a hot lap as we had to calculate the amount of risk whilst still maintaining our speed.
“I knew the final lap of the session would be definitive because the surface was drying out and conditions were getting better by the minute,” said Marquez.
“Things worked out for us and I set a time I really wasn’t expecting.”
The Spaniard will be joined on the front row by the Yamahas of Italy’s seven-times champion Valentino Rossi (2.00.336) and Briton Cal Crutchlow (2.00.359).
Marquez is looking for his seventh win of the year on Sunday and to extend his 39-point championship lead over compatriot Jorge Lorenzo with just three more races left in the season after Malaysia.
Defending champion Lorenzo will line up in the second row, alongside Marquez’s team mate Dani Pedrosa, after setting the fourth fastest time.
“Tomorrow will be a different story because Lorenzo and Dani both have great pace so we shall see if we have a bit of good fortune and the conditions remain dry,” Marquez added.
Pedrosa, runner up in the title race last year and 59 points behind Marquez coming to Malaysia, had dominated the practice sessions over the weekend but was unable to maintain his advantage over his rivals in the decisive qualifying shootout.
“A couple of corners were wet and so it wasn’t easy for qualifying,” Pedrosa said.
“I managed to do a great lap. It wasn’t enough today but overall I am happy with the performance.”
The 28-year-old’s mood was completely different to last week when he was left fuming at Marquez after his young team mate made contact with his bike at the Aragon Grand Prix, which Pedrosa blamed for his retirement from the race.
Marquez was handed a third penalty point of the season for his part in a collision, one point shy of automatic relegation to the back of the grid for one race.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Patrick Johnston