By Lisa Lewis

Pons Kalex rider Pol Espargaro took pole position in the Moto3 qualifying session at Phillip Island in a session which started under sunny, drying conditions only to see the rain return.

The Spaniard's lap of 1m 33.705 set before the drizzle returned is the fastest lap ever by a Moto2 bike around the track and would have qualified him ahead of Ivan Silva's 1000cc Blusens FTR-Kawasaki on the MotoGP grid.

It is Espargaro's seventh pole of the season, but the Tuenti Movil HP 40 rider needs at least a race win - and Marquez to score less than two points - to take the championship into the final round.

Espargaro said in the press conference that he "is confident with the motorbike" and is looking to do all he can in Sunday's "difficult fight".

With a time +0.559 behind, Scott Redding will be looking to add to his championship points from second on grid for Marc VDS Kalex.

Redding's current total of 148 is already set the highest points tally for a British rider in a single season of intermediate class racing. The Englishman had been fastest overall from combined practice and was easily ahead of team-mate Mika Kallio who starts from 14th.

World Championship leader Marc Marquez needs to lead by 25 points by the end of the weekend to take the crown, the gap between him and rival Espargaro currently sitting at 48.

He is well positioned to do this from third place on the grid and is looking to secure the title in Australia stating the race is "not his battle now".

The Catalunya Caixa Repsol Suter rider also added he is not happy with the set up of his bike, after technical problems in practice had cut the time he had to work on the performance.

Tom Luthi heads up the second row of the grid for Interwetten-Paddock starting his Suter in fourth while Takaaki Nakagami made late improvements to snatch fifth for Italtrans.

Returning Randy Krummenacher qualified sixth for Team Switzerland, who will not compete next season as they were not allocated a place in the class.

Top rookie Johann Zarco finds himself at the front of row three in seventh for JIR (Motobi) followed by
Andrea Iannone for Speed Master (Speed Up) in eighth.

Also on the third row is Ant West, who continued his form from the wet Sepang podium for QMMF Speed Up to claim his best qualifying so far - despite a crash in the closing minutes at his home circuit.

Espargaro's team-mate Tito Rabat starts tenth, with the third member of the Pons squad, Axel Pons, in 13th.

Bradley Smith missed much of qualifying after a fast crash. The Briton walked away uninjured but with a heavily damaged Tech 3 bike, leaving him 15th.

Toni Elias, now confirmed at Blusens on a Kalex for next season, placed his Italtrans in 18th on the grid.

Winner of the last two Australian Moto2 grands prix and victor in Sepang, Alex de Angelis, fell from his Forward Racing FTR late in the session and suffered a possible hand injury. He qualified down in 22nd.

After his podium in Malaysia, Federal Oil Gresini's Gino Rea will start just 24th.