By Lisa Lewis

A determined Luis Salom stormed to his fourth pole of the season as the rest struggled to improve their times and find free space at the breezy Phillip Island track in qualifying for the Malaysian Moto3 Grand Prix on Saturday.

The final ten minutes saw the battle for pole intensify with it increasingly hard to find clear track with all the bikes out, hunting for their best lap.

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Salom impressed by slicing through the traffic while managing to drop his time, his final 1m 36.890 being the only sub-1m 37 time at the flag.

The Red Bull KTM rider has an excellent conversion rate having turned his previous three pole positions into race wins - including last weekend in Sepang.

This puts him in a strong position to defend his championship lead which currently sits at a 14 point advantage over Alex Rins.

Second on the grid went to the Kalex KTM of Aspar rider Jonas Folger. Efren Vazquez ensured a mix of manufacturers on the front row when he snatched third position away from Maverick Vinales while following him around the track on his final lap aboard the Mahindra.

The Team Calvo's Vinales instead finds himself heading up the second row, a disappointing performance after he had shown promise in the morning practice session when he was the only rider to dip under the 1m 37s barrier and was quicker than the last Moto2 bike.

The Spaniard has not had a race win since Le Mans in May in what has proven to be a very close title race.

Fifth spot goes to Estrella Galicia rider Rins with Vinales' cousin Isaac completing the second row in sixth. The Ongetta-Centro Seta rider was also the highest Honda qualifier.

After scoring her first point in Sepang, Ana Carrasco had another strong performance on track and starts seventh for Team Calvo, her best qualifying result of the season.

Carassco was just one thousandth of a second off the time of Isaac Vinales and a place on the second row.

Miguel Oliveira was one of three riders to crash in the final five minutes, along with Romano Fenati and Zulfahmi Khairuddin, leaving him down in eighth on the grid for Mahindra.

Red Bull rider Khairuddin also battled his wrist, still painful though improving, for ninth and the final spot on the third row.

Home rider Jack Miller topped the timesheets early in the session but ended up in tenth after a hectic tussle for track for Caretta Technology-RTG.

Miller's team-mate, British rider John McPhee had been third in the final practice session, but in qualifying could only manage a 19th place grid start.

Alex Marquez has seemed out of his comfort zone at the Australian track all weekend and struggled to 13th on the grid.