Jorge Lorenzo put himself in the perfect position to clinch the MotoGP world championship by taking pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The points leader, who only needs ninth place tomorrow to take his first title, prevented Nicky Hayden from pulling off a shock pole with a late lap of 2m01.537sec.
As the temperature soared upward for qualifying, the form suggested by practice was largely turned inside out. Going into the final minutes, Yamaha held a commanding top four sweep, with Lorenzo following up his morning speed with provisional pole ahead of Tech 3's Ben Spies, while their respective teammates Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards sat third and fourth.
Honda's Andrea Dovizioso spoiled the Yamaha formation by getting up to second with six minutes to go, but shortly afterward came a shock burst of pace from Hayden, who grabbed first place with a lap 0.065sec faster than Lorenzo – despite the American having not even managed to get into the top 10 in practice.
But Hayden could not hold on and claim his first pole since the 2007 season, as Lorenzo improved with his last lap and beat the Ducati rider by exactly a tenth of a second. It was the first time runaway points leader Lorenzo had taken pole since Laguna Seca in July.
Hayden and Dovizioso remained on the front row, with Spies and Rossi pushed back to fourth – split by Casey Stoner on the second Ducati.
Edwards was seventh ahead of the two Suzukis, as Loris Capirossi recovered from his morning crash to take eighth behind teammate Alvaro Bautista. Gresini Honda's Marco Melandri completed the top 10, with his teammate Marco Simoncelli unable to match his morning and early session form and only qualifying 11th.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2m01.537s
2. Nicky Hayden Ducati 2m01.637s + 0.100s
3. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2m01.829s + 0.292s
4. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 2m01.993s + 0.456s
5. Casey Stoner Ducati 2m02.023s + 0.486s
6. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2m02.030s + 0.493s
7. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 2m02.097s + 0.560s
8. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 2m02.394s + 0.857s
9. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2m02.522s + 0.985s
10. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 2m02.624s + 1.087s
11. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 2m02.690s + 1.153s
12. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 2m02.723s + 1.186s
13. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 2m02.775s + 1.238s
14. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 2m02.778s + 1.241s
15. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 2m02.928s + 1.391s
16. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 2m04.167s + 2.630s