(Reuters) – MotoGP leader Marc Marquez crashed again but qualified on the front row on Saturday for what looks like being a title-deciding Thailand Grand Prix, with Petronas Yamaha rookie Fabio Quartararo seizing pole position.
Honda’s Marquez will start in third place and will take his sixth MotoGP title, and fourth in a row, if he beats Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso by two points at Buriram’s Chang International circuit on Sunday.
The Italian qualified only seventh.
Marquez was taken to hospital on Friday after being catapulted off his bike in a huge practice crash, the Spaniard returning later in the day after being given the all-clear.
He came off again in Saturday’s session, falling at the tricky Turn Five while pushing to better Quartararo’s time but without consequence.
“Physically I am OK. I have a little bit of pain but it’s no excuse for the race tomorrow,” said Marquez.
“The crashes this weekend aren’t a problem, for tomorrow we have good pace and we will treat it like any other race — aiming to fight for the podium and victory.”
Quartararo’s pole was the Frenchman’s fourth of an impressive debut season and he did it in a lap record time of one minute 29.719 seconds before also crashing while trying to go even faster.
Works Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales qualified second, 0.106 slower.
Italian great Valentino Rossi was the first to crash in the session and the 40-year-old will start from ninth place.
Marquez’s struggling team mate and compatriot Jorge Lorenzo, a triple MotoGP champion, qualified a disappointing 19th.
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Tony Lawrence)