Chang International Circuit was rained on earlier in the afternoon but the sun was bright as the first rows on the grid were there for the taking. The afternoon session of MotoGP qualifying saw an electric duel, as Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) got the better of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Champion-elect Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
Marquez was on top initially when he was a fraction away from the lap record, but it was Fabio Quartararo stormed on to be the first rider to complete a lap of the Chang International Circuit on a motorcycle in less than 90 seconds. Marquez also went sub-90 seconds but was no match for Quartararo. Maverick Viñales was pushing hard and was third.
Not a great run for Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as the nine-time World Champion crashed at Turn 5, with the front-end tucking as he looked to make the apex. In a frantic hurry, ‘The Doctor’ returned to the pits and went straight back out on the second of his Yamaha M1 machines. After his first go at it, he was tenth. But then, Rossi wouldn’t be the only rider to bin it at Turn 5.
Quartararo, not content with his lap record, went even quicker, blitzing his own lap record and securing a 1’29.719 on his seventh lap. This made it his fourth pole position of the season, a stunning achievement for the Independent team rider.
Drama awaited the rookie though, as he crashed at Turn 5. And he had reason to want to push for an even better lap record, as Maverick Viñales ended up just 0.106s behind his fellow Yamaha-man in second. Marquez was demoted to third and he wouldn’t get the chance of fighting back for pole either, as he too had already crashed at Turn 5. Marquez would be third for the first time since Jerez, on a day when Quartararo headed a Yamaha 1-2 as well.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completed the top ten and heads up row four, ahead of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and his brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). All six manufacturers are represented inside the top four rows, making for an exciting race tomorrow.
Top 10 after MotoGP qualifying results:
1 Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT)
2 Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +0.106
3 Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) +0.212
4 Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +0.712
5 Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) +0.803
6 Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) +0.878
7 Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) +0.973
8 Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +1.016
9 Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +1.022
10 Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +1.059