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Quartararo takes pole in Malaysia, Marquez crashes

By AFP - Nov 02,2019 - Last updated at Nov 02,2019

Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Fabio Quartararo of France breaks before taking a corner during the third MotoGP free practice at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday (AFP photo by Mohd Rasfan)

SEPANG, Malaysia — French rookie Fabio Quartararo snatched pole position for the Malaysian MotoGP on Saturday in a hard-fought race, but world champion Marc Marquez had a dramatic crash and will start from 11th place.

The 20-year-old Petronas Yamaha sensation, who has emerged this season as a key rival to Marquez, powered to a quickest lap of 1min 58.303sec to seal first place on the grid.

Spain’s Maverick Vinales was second quickest, 0.103 off the pace, while Franco Morbidelli of Italy rounded out an all-Yamaha front row.

Quartararo, who had already set blistering times in practice at the Sepang circuit, was fastest in the early stages of qualifying.

Valentino Rossi briefly took over before Vinales surged into the lead, and looked to be heading for victory.

But the French rider raced a scorching lap in the dying stages to beat his Monster Energy Yamaha rival, and secure his fifth pole position of the season.

The result is a major boost for Quartararo, who crashed out of the Australian MotoGP last week, and lifts his hopes of winning his first race in motorcyling’s premier class on Sunday.

“It was really tough,” he said after the race.

But he added that he “managed to get a clear lap in the last lap. I’m really happy about this lap and for the team, because both riders are on the front row”.

Morbidelli is his Petronas Yamaha teammate.

There was disappointment however for Marquez, who clinched his sixth world title last month, after he crashed on turn two, meaning he will start in 11th position in Sunday’s MotoGP.

The Repsol Honda rider had been following Quartararo, in an apparent bid to get in the French rider’s slipstream to help improve his time, but his bike skidded out of control.

The Spaniard was violently thrown over the bike, rolled off the track and onto the grass, but got up and walked away without serious injury.

His team said on Twitter that he had suffered bruising but had been declared fit.

The poor performance dims Marquez’s hopes of securing a second consecutive Malaysian MotoGP win and his 12th victory of the season.

The 26-year-old conceded the accident “was of course painful” but added: “I’m more disappointed to start 11th, than the crash.

“It will be difficult because it is not one of the best circuits for us.

“We will try to do our 100 per cent... but victory will be very difficult.”

Marquez is seeking to cap a stellar season in Malaysia by winning the team championship, to go with the riders’ and constructors’ titles, and seal the Triple Crown for Honda.

He also needs to score just nine points in Malaysia — a seventh-placed finish or above — to top three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s highest ever tally of 383 in a season.

The Malaysian MotoGP, the season’s penultimate race, is often interrupted by torrential downpours but the rain stayed away Saturday.

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