The Italian Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and the Spaniard Jorge Martin (Ducati-Pramac), in the fight to win the world title in MotoGP, finished in the Top 10 of the qualifying tests for the Malaysian Grand Prix, Friday on the circuit from Sepang. The reigning world champion, who is ahead of his runner-up by only 13 points with 111 remaining to be distributed, has provided the essentials by taking eighth place which secures his ticket for the second part of qualifying (Q2) on Saturday , without having to go through the repechage (Q1).
Only 15th in free practice in the morning, the Turinese was in the mix from the start of the qualifying practice contested in the humid Malaysian heat but on a dry track. He was the leader for a few minutes and never really shook, even in the final seconds, when he fell back in the standings.
Jorge Martin, who had a perfect weekend in Thailand with two victories in the sprint and in the GP, was very much to his advantage for the first day of testing at Sepang. The Madrilenian, who set the best time during the morning session, was again very fast a few hours later and took second place behind his compatriot Alex Marquez (Ducati-Gresini), thus building up his confidence with qualifying and the sprint scheduled for Saturday.
The two KTMs of Australian Jack Miller and South African Brad Binderse also did well by finishing third and fourth, ahead of Spaniard Maverick Vinales, who saved Aprilia's day as his compatriot Aleix Espargaro crashed four times on Friday and ultimately only took 20th place in qualifying practice. The Italian Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati-VR46), who still has a tiny chance of winning the title since he is 79 points behind Bagnaia, also won his place in Q2 by setting the ninth fastest time.
The two Frenchmen Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Johann Zarco (Ducati-Pramac), also qualified for Q2 by taking 7th and 10th places respectively. On the other hand, the six-time world champion Marc Marquez (Honda), once again failed in his quest for Top 10 and will have to go through the repechage after finishing 15th, almost a second behind his brother whom he will join next year at Gresini, just ahead of his teammate and compatriot Joan Mir.
Standings for the qualifying practice session for the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix, Friday at the Sepang circuit (5.54 km):
1. Alex Marquez (Ducati-Gresini) 1:57.823
2. Jorge Martin (ESP/Ducati-Pramac) at 0.174
3. Jack Miller (AUS/KTM) 0.409
4. Brad Binder (AFS/KTM) 0.484
5. Maverick Viñales (ITA/Aprilia) at 0.489
6. Luca Marini (ITA/Ducati-VR46) 0.511
7. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 0.576
8. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 0.597
9. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA/Ducati-VR46) 0.627
10. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 0.664
12. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati) 0.782
15. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.965
16. Joan Mir (ESP/Honda) 1,079
20. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1.903