Morbidelli charges to crucial pole in scorching Sepang
Italian star Franco Morbidelli will launch his bid to lift the 2017 Moto2 crown for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS from pole position in Malaysia tomorrow.
With track temperatures peaking at a tyre punishing 55 degrees and ambient temperatures nudging close to a physically and mentally taxing 35 degrees, Morbidelli brilliantly kept his cool to secure the sixth pole position of his career.
Morbidelli topped a dramatic qualifying session with a breath-taking lap of 2’06.406, which was only 0.020s away from being the fastest ever lap recorded by a Moto2 machine around the fast and flowing 5.5km Sepang International Circuit.
Tom Lüthi’s outright lap record of 2’06.383, which was set by the Swiss rider in qualifying back in 2015, was under severe pressure late on from the hard charging Morbidelli.
He was well inside record pace in the first two timed sectors, but hopes of a record-breaking blast to pole position were denied by a crash in turn seven, which Morbidelli walked away uninjured from.
The timing of today’s qualifying attack could not have been better, with Morbidelli’s first pole position since Germany’s Sachsenring round in early July coming on the eve of a 19-lap race in which he can be crowned this year’s World Champion.
Álex Márquez put up another resolute fight to make it a ninth race in 2017 that both Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders have qualified on the front row of the grid together.
The Spaniard lapped 0.5s faster than at any stage during the weekend in the draining and extreme heat of qualifying and a lap of 2’06.511 looked well set to secure third place on the grid. An impressive late lap from Fabio Quartararo relegated him back to fourth, but Márquez has demonstrated throughout this weekend that he is capable of fighting for the podium in tomorrow’s race.
Franco Morbidelli: 1st – 2’06.406
“Starting the biggest race of my career from pole position is just perfect. I was strong in FP3 this morning and right from the start of qualifying I felt good on the bike, even if the conditions were some of the toughest you can experience. I was confident I could find a bit more time at the end of the session and when I was pushing at my maximum I made the mistake at turn seven. I am fine and the bike wasn’t badly damaged so I could make a few more laps. I’m ready for tomorrow and we know what is at stake. We have worked so hard to be in this position that we must make another big push now to get over the finish line. I’ll try and relax tonight and treat tomorrow as normally as I can.”
Álex Márquez: 4th – 2’06.511
“I’m quite satisfied to finish qualifying in fourth position but it is always nice to be starting on the front row. I was inside the top three for most of the session and I only got pushed out right at the end, so I can’t be too disappointed. I’m happy with my performance in qualifying because we struggled a bit this morning in FP3. We found some good improvements with the bike in what was a difficult session, with the heat and humidity making it very physically demanding. We now have to wait and see what happens with the weather but I feel we can fight for the podium in both the dry and the wet.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“We can’t really ask for anything more than starting the race in which we can win the Moto2 title from pole position. Franco has been very strong all weekend and it was a fantastic pole lap that was almost the fastest we’ve ever seen here in Sepang. It’s not only his one lap speed that is impressive, but he was very consistent as well and that gives us confidence that he can get our main mission accomplished tomorrow. Álex has also done a good job this weekend. The temperature is so hot it was always going to be difficult to be improve the times, but he was very close to the front row and I’ve no doubt he will be fighting hard at the front tomorrow.”