SEPANG, Malaysia: Reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia of Ducati seized pole position at the Malaysian Grand Prix by setting a lap record of 1:57:491 on Saturday, building pressure on Pramac Racing's championship contender Jorge Martin.
Bagnaia put on a brilliant final lap at the Sepang International Circuit to secure his first pole since the Catalan Grand Prix in September and beat last year's poleman Martin, who crashed in the final minutes of Q2 at turn four.
The 26-year-old Italian, chasing his second world crown, will be joined by Martin and Enea Bastianini of Ducati on the front row on Sunday as he looks to increase the gap to title-rival Martin, who trails by 13 points in the standings.
Gresini's Alex Marquez will start fourth after showing promising pace throughout qualifying.
Marc Marquez's qualifying ended painfully after the six-time MotoGP champion crashed in Q1 and will only start 20th on Sunday. His Spanish compatriot Aleix Espargaro, who sits fifth in the championship, also missed on a Q2 spot. --REUTERS