KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Spain’s Dani Pedrosa seized his first pole of the 2015 season in dry track conditions ahead of Sunday’s Malaysian MotoGP, after a fierce battle with his Honda teammate and defending world champion Marc Marquez.
Pedrosa rocketed his Honda bike around the 3.4 mile Sepang circuit in a fastest ever lap time of one minute 59.053 seconds in Saturday qualifying, 0.409 seconds ahead of Marquez.
In third place was veteran rider and championship leader Valentino Rossi, who will start in the front row ahead of his Yamaha team-mate and old rival, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo finished fourth, 0.684 seconds behind Pedrosa.
(READ: Lorenzo puts heat on Rossi in Malaysian MotoGP practice)
Crowd favorite Rossi, who put on a stellar ride to the delight of his supporters, was 0.673 seconds behind Pedrosa.
“To start in the front row will help me in the tough race. Anything can happen,” the Italian told reporters with a smile.
Bitter championship battle
Lorenzo, 28, had dominated Friday’s practice, but qualified in fourth and will start in the second row along with Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Ducati’s Andrea Iannone.
It will be a nail-biting world championship battle: only Rossi and Lorenzo can win this year’s MotoGP crown in the final two rounds of the season.
Two-time world champion Lorenzo came in second at Philip Island last week and has narrowed the gap with Rossi to just 11 points.
Despite crashing during the fourth free practice, Lorenzo looked resolute in attempting to catch up by securing front row in Sepang, but the Italian – cheered on by his die-hard fans – denied Lorenzo a prime place in the grid.
Rossi is hoping for a 10th career world title, but has yet to win since in 2009.
On Friday, Lorenzo rubbished Rossi’s allegation that 22-year-old rival Marquez had helped Lorenzo win the Philip Island race, following a similar denial from Marquez himself.
Lorenzo and Rossi were team-mates at Yamaha between 2006-2008, but relations was tense.
Things improved after Rossi rejoined Yamaha in 2013, but with the world title at stake their old animosity has re-emerged.
For Rossi to win the title on Sunday, he would need to push his advantage up to 26 points.
Rossi, the oldest rider in the MotoGP entry list, risks a world title showdown in the season’s final race in Valencia on November 8 if he does not grab the title in Malaysia.
Sepang is one of the season’s most demanding circuits but is also Rossi’s favorite track as the Yamaha racer has won 6 times here in the premier class.
Temperatures can soar well above 40 degrees Celsius at the circuit, which lies outside Kuala Lumpur and is one of the longest in the season. – Rappler.com
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