Dani Pedrosa celebrated his first MotoGP pole since Catalunya 2014 with a record-breaking lap at Sepang on Saturday.
The Repsol Honda star set an unbeatable 1m 59.053s on his very first flying lap, finishing the Q2 session 0.4s clear of team-mate Marc Marquez.
“I saw that everybody started very early in qualifying because the strategy was for three tyres, so I decide to only go for two tyres,” said Pedrosa, who took his first race win of the season at Motegi earlier this month.
“So I started later than the others, I had no traffic and I could go out and focus on the lap.
“Normally I struggle a lot in qualifying, but today I had a good feeling and I could do a very strong lap. I'm really surprised and happy with this lap, also for the team, who worked really well.”
Pedrosa has led three of the five sessions so far this weekend. Asked if he feels he is the man to beat, the Spaniard replied:
“We'll see. Sure until now we did a good job in practice and went very fast all the time. This is also a track where you need a good set-up and confidence. Right now this is there and, yeah, why not?
“But in any case we have to keep very, very focussed. It is very important to start well, have a good feeling with the track after the morning practice the track gets much hotter.
“So you have to feel well the track, but at the same time there will be another battle also in the race with Valentino, Jorge and sure they are going to try very, very strong. But we have to keep focussed because it's a long race with many overtaking points and it is important to finish because last year, for example, I crashed in the early laps.”
Pedrosa's season, and indeed career, was thrown into jeopardy when the Spaniard withdrew to seek treatment for arm-pump problems at the Qatar season-opener.
He has now fought back to fifth in the world championship, with four podiums, including the wet Motegi win.