The battle for the honour of writing one’s name on the first official fastest lap around the Chang International Circuit was about as hot as the thermometer as soon as Q1 unfolded, Marc Marquez’s unlikely adventures in the first qualifying session seeing him disappear ahead of the opposition by a full second and posting what proved to be the fastest time of the weekend. A quick rest and the world champion was right back on the gas, opening Q2 with some spectacular moves at the top of the timesheets and closing it as the first rider in history to take pole position after coming through Q1 – as well as his 50th Tissot in the premier class.
The final attack came with a red sector recital throughout the pack but the battle came down to the three names headlining their factories’ efforts: Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso. Marquez missed out on a final flying lap due to yet another big moment and his pole looked under threat but rivals struggled to find that extra bit of time on their final laps. Nonetheless, the reigning world champion will have Rossi and Dovizioso breathing down his neck from the front row. If Dovizioso had been undeniably and predictably fast throughout the weekend, Rossi brought home a performance that he himself was probably not expecting, losing out on pole by a mere hundredth of a second.
Teammate Maverick Viñales also looked like a challenger until the checkered flag but was hindered by a niggle with his second soft tyre and lost some precious track time as he swapped to his other bike. Even so, the Spaniard was only a tenth off front row and opening an elite row two in the company of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone.
Dani Pedrosa was less than four tenths off his leading teammate and will start his first and only Thai GP from the front of row three, putting his Honda ahead of the Yamaha of Johann Zarco and the Ducati of Danilo Petrucci. Jack Miller rounded out the top ten, with Alex Rins coming through Q1 in the world champion’s shadow and getting the best of Alvaro Bautista on the fourth row of the grid. Lead rookie Franco Morbidelli was best of the rest and missed out on Q2 by only two thousandths of a second.