By Lisa Lewis

Luis Salom stormed to his third pole of the season in Moto3 qualifying at Sepang, as his main rivals struggled to improve their times and find free space on a drying track.

The Red Bull KTM rider - who has not qualified on the front row for the last two grands prix, fighting back to fourth in the race on both occasions - began the day by beating the Moto3 lap in practice.

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The Mallorcan rider's qualifying time was just shy of his own new best at 2m 13.867, but still a new pole record.

The Spaniard's previous two pole starts, in Qatar and Catalunya, both lead to victories in his hunt for the title and with neither Alex Rins or Maverick Vinales making the front row, Salom is in a strong position to add another victory to his tally.

An early rush to set a time in the unpredictable conditions at the soggy Sepang track subsided as all the riders then vanished into the pits in the hope of some drier track time.

The session was kick-started with 20 minutes remaining when CIP Moto3 rider Alan Techer became the first to attempt a lap on slick tyres and immediately sliced a second and a half off the best time as the wet spots dried.

Alexis Masbou capitalised, the Ongetta-Rivacold rider sneaking his FTR Honda into second on the grid, a new best in qualifying for the Frenchman.

Joining him on the front row is fellow Honda rider Niccolo Antonelli, the Gresini rider matching his best-ever grid position of third in the process.

Miguel Oliveira heads up the second row in fourth for Mahindra, setting a speedy final lap behind an obviously agitated Alex Rins, who could not place his Estrella Galicia machine higher than sixth while being followed by the Portuguese rider.

Sitting between them on the grid is Rins' team-mate Alex Marquez who trailed Antonelli on his final lap to move into fifth.

Jack Miller was also following a fast rider as the chequered flag was waved, the Australian chose to shadow Salom, a wise move propelling him to seventh on the grid for Caretta Technlolgy-RTG.

Eighth went to the second Mahindra of Efren Vazquez. The third row is completed by Maverick Vinales in ninth after he struggled for pace and track position in the closing stages.

It is the first time the Team Calvo rider has not qualified on the front two rows all season, far from an ideal placing for the Spaniard who is still looking for his first victory since Le Mans.

Jonas Folger, who is still carrying injury after breaking his ankle less than a month ago, rounded out the top ten fastest times for the Aspar team.

Local rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who has struggled in qualifying all season, found the going tough on returning to the scene of his first podium finish.

The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was cautious after having titanium screws inserted into his wrist to help him ride against the injury which has troubled him all season.

This left last years pole-sitter starting down in 14th, though his track knowledge should help him improve on race day, something managed by the Malaysian on various occasions this season.

Briton John McPhee will start from down in 22nd place for Caretta Technology-RTG

Brad Binder crashed with three minutes remaining leaving him to tumble down the timesheets to 23rd. There was also a crash in the final minute for Alessandro Tonucci who will still start from 21st on the grid.