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Moto GP: Marc Marquez crashes, Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa takes pole at Sepang

A win or second-place finish would give Marc Marquez the 2017 MotoGP world title. However, his poor form and crash during qualifying at Sepang Circuit -- the Repsol Honda rider’s Malaysia jinx -- has given Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who is starting from third place behind pole-setter Dani Pedrosa, a window of hope

other sports Updated: Oct 28, 2017 19:06 IST
Leslie Xavier
Leslie Xavier
Sepang, Malaysia
Malaysian GP,Marc Marquez,Dani Pedrosa
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (C) grabbed the pole position at the Malaysian GP on Saturday.(AP)

Marc Marquez, the defending world champion, who is on the verge of sealing his fourth MotoGP title, had a disastrous qualifying session at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Repsol Honda rider’s qualifying laps for this season’s penultimate race were so jittery that they made his other not-so-remarkable outings at Sepang Circuit look good!

The 24-year-old crashed his Repsol Honda in his first flying lap of the session on Saturday, and was forced to use his spare bike, which just magnified the discomfort he was enduring, trying to manage his twitchy bike fast enough around the corners.

READ | Marc Marquez extends MotoGP lead to 33 points with win in Australia

Despite being fastest during Free Practice 4, Marquez had to wrestle his bike to qualify in seventh place, the second-worst qualifying result of his MotoGP career and the worst of the year. Pole was taken by Dani Pedrosa, which should leave Marquez a little happy as his main title rival -- Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati -- is starting behind his Honda teammate.

Pedrosa qualified with a time of 1 minute, 59.212 seconds, just 0.017 seconds faster than Italian Johann Zarco (Yamaha), with Dovizioso (another 0.007 behind on Ducati) completing the front row.

Yamaha’s Italian riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, and Jorge Lorenzo of Spain (in that order) will start the race from the second row of the grid. The pedigree of the riders makes Marquez task to race up the order that much difficult.

READ | MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso, Sepang ghosts stand between Marc Marquez and world title

Marquez’s title to lose

Despite things looking tough, Marquez still holds the aces, leading Dovizioso by 33 points in the championship. He will be crowned world champion if he finishes first or second in Sunday’s race. And if things go wrong in Malaysia, he would still have a distinct advantage going into his “home” Grand Prix -- the Valencia GP -- on November 12.

That home race is far off and the task at hand for Repsol Honda is to give their championship leader a well set machine he could comfortably push at Sepang. Of course, Pedrosa’s presence at the top of the grid, gives them some breathing space, but Dovizioso, the 2004 125cc world champion and a veteran of the circuit at 31, knows a thing or two about climbing places on the racing track.

READ | Sebastian Vettel hopes to deny Lewis Hamilton’s charge to 4th Formula One title

Wet... Dry... Unsure!

Pole-sitter Pedrosa is hoping the race remains dry -- Malaysia is known for its weather swings, and making the dry to wet shift is more tricky for riders than fighting humid and sultry conditions. “We hope Sunday’s race will be dry. We hope to focus on the race and hopefully we will do our best,” Pedrosa said after qualifying, adding, “Starting from the front is very important.”

Dovizioso doesn’t seem to care if it is wet or dry. “I set a fast lap and it seems the bike is competitive in both wet and dry track,” he told during a media interaction.

The Italian’s confidence is evident from his words. Marquez, the world championship front-runner, going by how he went about business on Saturday, seems too preoccupied with other pressing matters to mull on wet/dry variables.

Meanwhile, Italian Franco Morbidelli on a Kalex will start from pole in the Moto2 segment and Joan Mir of Spain (Leopard Racing, Honda) will start from the front of the grid in the Moto3 race Sunday.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 19:06 IST