Sunday, October 26

MARQUEZ TAKES OVER

 by MICHAEL ESDAILE 

The first day of MotoGP practice for the Shell Advance Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, it was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa leading the way.

Pedrosa continued that on Saturday morning to top the third free practice session.

But on Saturday afternoon, two-time class champion Marc Marquez wrested that honour away from his team-mate, setting fastest time in free practice four, and continuing to hold that edge through the final 15 minute qualifying session.

At the end, Marquez ended up with a record 13th pole position in one season, recording a best lap 1.614 seconds under his own Sepang lap record.  He also shaved 0.220 seconds off his 2013 pole time so he definitely has his eye in.

He emphasized his top dog status by reeling off the fastest lap time in Sunday morning’s arm-up, 0.258 of a second ahead of second fastest man, Jorge Lorenzo.

In Saturday qualifying, Lorenzo had traded second fastest time with Pedrosa, who has scored back-to-back MotoGP wins at the Malaysian circuit these past two years.  In that encounter, it was Pedrosa who ended up second fastest but Lorenzo is looking smooth, controlled and deadly serious.

Turning a couple of fast laps in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix is one thing.  Converting that to consistently fast lap times in the heat at Sepang for 20 laps is another thing entirely.

Pedrosa is a proven performer at Sepang and if the early pace is in the 2m 01s bracket, expect him to be applying plenty of pressure on his younger Repsol Honda team-mate, with Lorenzo hanging in there on the Yamaha.

On a cooler track surface on Saturday morning, Lorenzo was the most consistently fast of the three Spaniards but unless it rains before the MotoGP race and cools the track, expect the two Repsol Honda men to be at the front for Sunday afternoon’s race.

While Lorenzo his Yamaha near the front, Australian Grand Prix winner Valentino Rossi has struggled to get close to the three Spaniards. In FP3 he was seventh fastest, then was fifth fastest – behind the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in FP4.

In qualifying, a group of aging Australian fans were cheering wildly every time Rossi went past, and were in an absolute frenzy when the Italian posted fourth fastest time.

Then Stefan Bradl and Dovizioso got the better of the number two Yamaha man, so he ended the session sixth fastest.

Still, as he proved at Phillip Island, if anything happens to Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez in the race, he will happily live off their scraps.

For the full qualifying times from Sepang, click here