MotoGP 2017: Pedrosa claims Sepang pole ahead of Zarco and Dovizioso

Maddalena Corvaglia

World champion Marc Marquez steered his Honda onto pole for the fourth year in a row at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday, striking a major blow in the title race with his main rival Andrea Dovizioso only 11th fastest after an earlier crash. He struggled and qualified seventh. Once he mounted a second bike it was as if the omens had deserted him and it was as smooth a qualifying as any would expect from the reigning champion. I cannot predict the race tomorrow, but there are many riders who can do faster laps. I made a couple of little mistakes but it was enough for the pole, which is fantastic.

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.

Marquez crashed on his first flier, taking a tumble at Turn 15 but able to get the bike going and head down pitlane, and was unable to threaten once back out on track.

"Were not at our best at the moment, but I think our race pace is better then our qualifying position".

"We went right, it was not the correct direction".

"We'll try and have a good race". But we'll see, maybe tomorrow during the afternoon, rain changes everything so we need to see how we can manage.

Italy's Dovizioso, who faces an uphill battle to stop Marquez winning his second straight world championship, clocked 2min 00.671sec, while Marquez was 0.279 slower in fifth on the overall standings.

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Torres, who had a quiet game, headed in Spain's third from a Sergio Gómez cross that came from the left. A penalty and a great finish by Abel Ruiz saw Spain getting the edge over a physical Mali side.

"We know it's hard, but the Championship is open and we'll try everything", Dovizioso said at a press conference ahead of the Malaysia GP, scheduled to take place over the weekend. "We had a question mark in the dry, but in FP4 the bike work very well with the used tyre so I am very happy for the race tomorrow".

"In qualifying I did an nearly flawless lap, and this gave me an enormous satisfaction!"

"We are there, three or four riders who can fight for the podium".

Vinales, third in the championship and 41 points behind Marquez, was second quickest in 1:28.719 and will line up on the front row along with fellow Yamaha rider, French rookie Johann Zarco (1:28.744).

Now it's time for the 20-lap Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard however did not fall off his bike as the slow run-offs outside the confines of the track were to help him reduce his speed.

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