Jorge Lorenzo claimed pole position for the Czech Grand Prix with a sensational qualifying performance. Title rival Dani Pedrosa's momentum meanwhile was disrupted by a fall, leaving him third.
Lorenzo had been edged out by Pedrosa in all three practice sessions, but five minutes into qualifying he had already posted a weekend best of 1m56.5s.
That was only the start of his run however. His next four laps were all under the 1m57s bracket, the Spaniard dropping down to a new outright track record of 1m56.144s.
For a while that signaled the end of any significant action, particularly as Pedrosa lost the front of his Honda coming out of Turn 9, and then struggled on his second frame. In the final minutes, however, Lorenzo's control became dominance, as he smashed his previous best with a 1m55.799s. That initially put him six tenths clear of the field, and with Pedrosa struggling for rhythm it appeared Yamaha could claim a front-row sweep.
That appeared even more likely when, with two minutes to run, Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3) matched Lorenzo in the first three sectors before eventually finishing 0.196s down. Crutchlow had earlier fallen at the session's halfway point. Ben Spies followed him home in third, but as the flag flew Pedrosa sneaked ahead to secure the outside slot of the front row.
Spies will line up fourth ahead of Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati's Valentino Rossi, both of whom finished within one second of the pole time.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m55.799s
2. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m55.995s + 0.196s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m56.327s + 0.528s
4. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m56.331s + 0.532s
5. Andrea Dovizioso Tech 3 Yamaha 1m56.559s + 0.760s
6. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m56.735s + 0.936s
7. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 1m56.827s + 1.028s
8. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 1m57.068s + 1.269s
9. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 1m57.773s + 1.974s
10. Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 1m57.844s + 2.045s
11. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia 1m58.153s + 2.354s
12. Yonny Hernandez Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m59.087s + 3.288s
13. Toni Elias Pramac Ducati 1m59.120s + 3.321s
14. Michele Pirro Gresini FTR-Honda 1m59.387s + 3.588s
15. Colin Edwards Forward Suter-BMW 1m59.863s + 4.064s
16. Mattia Pasini Speed Master Aprilia 1m59.865s + 4.066s
17. James Ellison Paul Bird Aprilia 2m00.316s + 4.517s
18. Ivan Silva Avintia Inmotec-Kawasaki 2m00.329s + 4.530s
19. Danilo Petrucci Ioda Aprilia 2m00.854s + 5.055s