Honda's Dani Pedrosa produced a stunning late lap to grab pole position for round four of the MotoGP series at Mugello in Italy, toppling session-long dominator Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha in the final seconds.
In a session conspicuous by the absence of injured superstar Valentino Rossi, who broke his right leg in practice this morning, there was only 45 seconds left on the clock when Pedrosa crossed the line to set a 1m48.819s, pipping Lorenzo by 0.177s, after a stunningly aggressive lap.
"It was a good lap for today," said Pedrosa. "I think he [Lorenzo] has the best pace, so I'll try to stay with him. We need to be consistent for the entire laps, and push hard at the end."
Lorenzo said: "Without Valentino the races are less fun, but we have to think about ourselves. I'm losing a little bit of power for pole position – I don't have any this year! – but the important thing is the race tomorrow."
Casey Stoner also produced one of his best laps of the season to drag his Ducati onto the front row, with a 1m49.432s.
"It was probably one of my best-ever laps," said Stoner, who had languished at the foot of the top ten going into the closing stages. "It was as close to the limit to what I can get with what I have at the moment."
Stoner's teammate Nicky Hayden will start fourth, just over a tenth off his fellow Ducati rider.
An excellent last-lap effort from Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards leapfrogged him ahead of the impressive Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) into fifth. Edwards' teammate Ben Spies starts seventh, another man to improve late on, and he demoted Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) and Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Ducati).
Hiroshi Aoyama will start 10th, the Interwetten Honda rider having been as high as fifth early on.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m48.819s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m48.996s + 0.177s
3. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m49.432s + 0.613s
4. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m49.546s + 0.727s
5. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m49.683s + 0.864s
6. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m49.737s + 0.918s
7. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m49.861s + 1.042s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m50.065s + 1.246s
9. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m50.168s + 1.349s
10. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 1m50.224s + 1.405s
11. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m50.434s + 1.615s
12. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m50.479s + 1.660s
13. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m50.561s + 1.742s
14. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m50.664s + 1.845s
15. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m50.970s + 2.151s
16. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m53.243s + 4.424s