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Rossi takes pole for Malaysian GP in title chase

VALENTINO Rossi, chasing a seventh world title in the premier class, will start the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from pole position after setting a new qualifying record today.

The reigning world champion from Italy clocked a best lap of 2:00.518 in qualifying to secure pole position, with Yamaha teammate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo and Honda rider Dani Pedrosa completing the front row.

The Italian broke his own previous pole record at the Sepang circuit - recorded on a 990cc machine in 2006 - by 0.087s and lapped 0.569s faster than his teammate.

Lorenzo, who crashed on his MotoGP race debut at the track last season, was followed onto the front row of the grid by Pedrosa, who was fastest in morning practice earlier but the Honda rider finished a further 0.167s behind Lorenzo.

Ducati rider Casey Stoner of Australia, who won the race at Sepang in his world title winning season in 2007 and won last weekend's race in Australia, will start from fourth after lapping at almost a full second slower than Rossi while Suzuki's Loris Capirossi secured fifth.

Toni Elias of Spain, Nicky Hayden of United States, Randy de Puniet of Spain, Colin Edwards of United States and Alex de Angelis of San Marino completed the top ten placings.

Rossi has a 38-point advantage in the world championship and a top-four ride in Sepang tomorrow will be enough for him to win his seventh premier class title with one round to spare.

"I went all out to get the pole and I am happy it turned out to be the fastest ever lap at Sepang," Rossi said. "I have a good advantage for tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Japan's Hiroshi Aoyama set a new 250cc pole position lap record of 2:06.767 on a Honda to secure front spot on the grid.

Hiroshi, currently leading the championship standings by 12 points, was 0.332s clear of French rider Jules Cluzel on an Aprilia.

In the 125cc class, Spaniard Marc Marquez , on a KTM, topped qualifying with a lap of 2:13.756, snatching his second pole of the season.

Fellow Spaniard Julian Simon, who was crowned world champion in Phillip Island last Sunday, secured second spot with a final lap which was 0.055s off Marquez's time while Great Britain's Bradley Smith and Germany's Sandro Cortese completed the front row.


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