Jorge Lorenzo hailed his 'unbelievable' pace in qualifying at Motegi, after almost springing a major upset and claiming pole position at the Japanese circuit.
Honda, and championship leader Casey Stoner in particular, had dominated practice. Stoner topped the first and third sessions, while Honda only once found one of its works riders outside the top three.
In qualifying, however, Lorenzo proved to be Stoner's main threat, the Spaniard producing an outstanding lap to beat his own lap record and go fastest at the time. Though Stoner was able to respond, Lorenzo said sealing a front-row berth was hugely important for his race prospects.
"We tried something different this afternoon and our lap times were unbelievable," Lorenzo said. "We almost got pole. The most important thing is the first row because there are riders like Casey who find it easy to escape so I want to be right there.
"We have improved today but Motegi is still a tough track for Yamaha riders. If the other riders do a perfect race it is almost impossible to win, but anything can happen. Now I can say I am ready for the battle."
On the second works YZR-M1 Ben Spies also impressed, overcoming a severe illness which had caused him to miss swathes of practice to seal fifth on the grid. Spies said he was simply happy to have been able to ride.
"I've had a lot of support from the guys at Clinica to get me back towards 100% fitness," he explained. "I'm just glad now to be on the bike, a couple of days ago I didn't think I was going to be able to ride.
"I'm really happy to have got into the middle of the second row today and I hope things get even better for tomorrow. Yesterday I was pretty weak on the bike, this morning I felt a bit stronger. I'm doing the best I can for my crew and the paddock and all the fans who are here to watch us."