Jorge Lorenzo took his third MotoGP pole position in a row with a superb late effort in qualifying for the Catalan Grand Prix at Barcelona.
The world championship leader looked to have lost the front spot to Casey Stoner with three minutes remaining as the Ducati rider leapt up from 10th to seize the advantage with a stunning 1m42.410s.
But Lorenzo was on a quick lap as Stoner crossed the line, and re-took pole on his Yamaha in 1m42.292s. Just to rub salt into his rival's wounds, the Spaniard then went another 0.3sec quicker on his final lap to give himself a healthy advantage at the top of the time sheets.
Most of the action took place in the final two minutes. Randy de Puniet, who had led the way for over half an hour, hauled his LCR Honda back up to third with his final effort, knocking the factory Honda of Dani Pedrosa back to the second row. Ben Spies put in a late hot lap to elevate his Tech 3 Yamaha to fifth, while Andrea Dovizioso completed the second row on the second works Honda.
Loris Capirossi took Suzuki's best grid spot since the Qatar season opener in seventh, the veteran Italian having run in the top 10 all session. One place further back was Pramac Ducati rider Aleix Espargaro, who took a career best grid spot. Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) and Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) completed the top 10, the latter taking his best MotoGP grid spot to date.
Marco Melandri slid through the gravel on his Gresini bike early in the session, and could only manage 14th.
Valentino Rossi's Yamaha replacement, Wataru Yoshikawa, qualified 3.7sec off the pace in last position. Sunday will mark the 41-year-old Japanese rider's first grand prix appearance for eight years.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m42.046s
2. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m42.410s + 0.364s
3. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m42.512s + 0.466s
4. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m42.592s + 0.546s
5. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m42.710s + 0.664s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m42.866s + 0.820s
7. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m42.903s + 0.857s
8. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m42.931s + 0.885s
9. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m42.994s + 0.948s
10. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m43.025s + 0.979s
11. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m43.059s + 1.013s
12. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m43.068s + 1.022s
13. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m43.417s + 1.371s
14. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m43.621s + 1.575s
15. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m43.685s + 1.639s
16. Kousuke Akiyoshi Interwetten Honda 1m45.577s + 3.531s
17. Wataru Yoshikawa Yamaha 1m45.759s + 3.713s