KUALA LUMPUR: An injured Khairi Zakaria did well to secure third on the grid to keep his Asian Class title hopes alive at the fifth and final round of the FIM Asia Supermoto Championships in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
Khairi, who suffered a crash in practice on Friday, battled through the pain barrier to clock 48.014 seconds in the superchrono (qualifying) session.
Wildcard rider Simon Vilhelmsen of Denmark, who is World No 4, took pole on 47.469s while International Class leader Lewis Cornish of Great Britain was second on 47.490s.
Khairi, the overall winner in 2012 and 2013, was delighted with his performance considering the circumstances.
"I suffered heavy bruising on my right thigh in the crash," said the 29-year-old.
"I am happy to start from the front which gives me a better chance for the holeshot. Hopefully, I can make full use of my position to create a gap.
"I do not want to get stuck in traffic like I did in Singapore (round four) earlier this month.
"It is still tough for me to chase down the Asian Class leader (Trakarn Thangthong) but I will try my best to do so, especially as we are racing here at home in Malaysia."
Khairi is second on the Asian Class standings and trails Trakarn of Thailand by 10 points.
Trakarn will start from fourth on the grid having clocked 48.367s while Habibullah Saleh (48.604s) is fifth.
Vilhelmsen, who usually races in the Supermoto World and European Championships, said he is not taking his opponents lightly.
"I am really glad (to get pole), it is very important for me as Lewis is so fast and it has been very difficult for me to adapt to the bike and the setup because it is not what I am used to," said Vilhelmsen.
"The track here is really tight and it will be tough to overtake. I know I have consistent lap times here and hopefully I can create a gap on him (Cornish)."