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Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez showed why he's the MotoGP World Champion as the young Spanish rider swept to pole position for the opening race of the season at the Losail circuit.

Marquez was sidelined for six weeks after breaking his leg in a dirt bike accident, but nonetheless the 21-year-old powered to the front on his final lap to edge out Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista with a time of 1m 54.507s.

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Bautista, 0.057s behind, held off British rider Bradley Smith, who was celebrating his first MotoGP front row start with a brilliant ride to third place on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3, only 0.093s behind Marquez.

There was huge disappointment for Aleix Espargaro on the Open Forward Yamaha, who went down twice in the crucial session, eventually finishing ninth on the times and back on row three for Sunday's race.

Espargaro had topped the times in the first three free practice sessions but lost the front end at Turn 6 with nine minutes of Q2 remaining. He managed to return to the paddock and ventured back out on his second bike, but again disaster struck for the Spanish rider and his chances of a front row start or better were lost.

Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso bagged a second row start, lapping in 1m 54.644s, with factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa completing the top six.

Stefan Bradl was seventh on the LCR Honda ahead of Cal Crutchlow, whose best time was 0.381s down on Marquez.

Crutchlow narrowly made it through to Q2 along with Pol Espargaro after Nicky Hayden threatened to secure the second spot on the Drive M7 Aspar RCV1000R Honda, ultimately losing out due to a lack of top end power.

Valentino Rossi was half a second adrift of the pole position time as he completed the top ten behind Aleix Espargaro, while Andrea Iannone and Pol Espargaro were the first 12.

Qualifying 2:
1. Marc Marquez
2. Alvaro Bautista
3. Bradley Smith
4. Andrea Dovizioso
5. Jorge Lorenzo
6. Dani Pedrosa
7. Stefan Bradl
8. Cal Crutchlow
9. Aleix Espargaro
10. Valentino Rossi
11. Andrea Iannone
12. Pol Espargaro