Franco Morbidelli may have taken six poles at world championship level in grand prix, but Thursday's EWC pole position at the Sepang 8 Hours was a very different experience.

The quickest rider on track after the pair of conventional qualifying sessions, Morbidelli was then picked to represent the Yamaha Sepang Team in the Top 10 Trial, despite no experience of the one-lap 'Superpole' format, under floodlights.

When rider after rider then failed to beat an early 2m 5.440s by Somkiat Chantra, there were suspicions that late evening moisture might be forming on the track surface.

But Morbidelli, the last on track, batted such concerns aside by rocketing 0.793s clear of the Honda rider for pole position.

"It's always good to qualify on pole, but it's also fun to do it in the way they do here in EWC, with just one lap on an empty track to set your fastest time," said the Italian, who had suffered a minor fall in Qualifying 2.

"The format certainly gets the adrenaline flowing, as you try to squeeze every little bit of speed from the bike.

"Tomorrow we will take advantage of the rest day before returning to the track on Saturday.

"In the race we'll try and do our job in the best way and try to secure the best result possible.

"This will be my first EWC race, but it's a fun series and I'm enjoying the challenge, so thanks to Yamaha, to the Sepang International Circuit and to the team for giving me this opportunity."

Team-mates Michael van der Mark and Hafizh Syahrin began the day by matching Morbidelli's performance by also leading their respective Qualifying 1 track sessions.

WorldSBK and Suzuka 8 Hour ace van der Mark then joined Morbidelli in also topping his Qualifying 2 outing, when Syahrin was fourth in the 'yellow' group.

"We've enjoyed a strong start to the race weekend, with Franco posting a fantastic lap in the Top 10 Trial to turn our provisional pole from qualifying into the actual pole position for Saturday's race," van der Mark said.

"Even more important is our constant improvement and the better feeling with our R1 that we all gain with every exit. All three of us have a really good pace, so I'm sure we can fight at front in the first ever 8 Hours of Sepang race on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!"

Home star Syahrin, who will return to the circuit on Friday to take part in the touring car practice and qualifying, added: "I'm very happy that we were able to secure pole position in front of mine and the team's home crowd for the first ever 8 Hours of Sepang race.

"It's sure to be a tough race in hot conditions on Saturday but we believe in our package, which is really strong, so let's see what we can do.

"We need to patient in the race, avoid making any mistakes when dealing with traffic on track and make sure our pit stops are as slick as possible. I believe in the team; I have faith in my teammates, and I think we can do a good job in the race."

The inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang race gets underway at 13.00 local time on Saturday and will finish under floodlights.

 

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