Valentino Rossi felt he was capable of beating Casey Stoner to Phillip Island pole but for a mistake in the final part of his best lap. The championship leader took provisional pole from Stoner with six minutes to go, but Stoner then fought back and claimed the top spot by 0.050 second.
"Today we worked well on the bike, found a good setting, and I was quite fast after the last modification," said Rossi. "It's a pity because it was possible to have the pole position. I made a mistake in T4, I was ahead, and unfortunately Casey beat me by just a bit."
He was still content with his position relative to title rival and Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who has been off the pace all weekend and qualified 0.7s adrift in a season-worst fourth.
"From the championship point of view it's okay because I'm faster than Jorge," said Rossi. "We have a good advantage. So I hope tomorrow it will be possible for fight for the victory between me and Casey."
The Italian added that while he was keen to fight for the win in a normal race, he might play it safe if the rain returned and just focus on safeguarding his 18-point lead over Lorenzo in the standings.
"I haven't decided yet," he replied when asked if he would race with the championship in mind. "We need to wait for the conditions. We hope for the dry."