MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo took his first pole position of the season in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix, as Marco Simoncelli's bid for the top spot ended in a crash.
Having been fastest in both Friday sessions, Simoncelli looked favourite for pole as he set a dominant pace for the majority of qualifying as well. But Lorenzo edged ahead of the Italian going into the final five minutes, and as Simoncelli tried to respond and earn Gresini a first MotoGP pole in over five years, he had a low-side crash at Turn 7.
That left him powerless to respond to Yamaha rider Lorenzo, who went on to improve his time to a 1m37.161s, giving him pole by just over a tenth - at a circuit where he has won in each of the last three seasons. But Simoncelli's 1m37.294s was still good enough for a career-best second on the grid, as the works Honda team's riders proved unable to beat his pace.
Both Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were up on Lorenzo and Simoncelli's times in the first half of the lap, only to lose out in the final sectors, leaving them third and fourth. Andrea Dovizioso was sixth on the other works Honda, behind Lorenzo's Yamaha team-mate Ben Spies.
After his promising Friday, Valentino Rossi struggled on his Ducati again and was only ninth, outpaced by both Tech 3 Yamahas. Cal Crutchlow looked set to outqualify teammate Colin Edwards until the American slipped ahead and into seventh with his last lap.
A strong run from Hector Barbera put the Aspar Ducati in 10th, as Nicky Hayden could only manage 13th on the other factory example.
Alvaro Bautista completed 27 laps on his still-healing leg and managed to qualify a respectable 15th on the sole Suzuki.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m37.161s
2. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m37.294s + 0.133s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m37.324s + 0.163s
4. Casey Stoner Honda 1m37.384s + 0.223s
5. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m37.866s + 0.705s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m38.073s + 0.912s
7. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m38.080s + 0.919s
8. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m38.189s + 1.028s
9. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m38.271s + 1.110s
10. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m38.363s + 1.202s
11. Hiroshi Aoyama Gresini Honda 1m38.497s + 1.336s
12. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 1m38.786s + 1.625s
13. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m38.922s + 1.761s
14. Loris Capirossi Pramac Ducati 1m38.934s + 1.773s
15. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m39.172s + 2.011s
16. Randy de Puniet Pramac Ducati 1m39.378s + 2.217s
17. Toni Elias LCR Honda 1m39.894s + 2.733s