Casey Stoner captured pole position for MotoGP's German Grand Prix as qualifying built to a scintillating crescendo.
Top spot changed hands time after time in the closing minutes, with seven riders all holding provisional pole as circuit conditions improved dramatically in the final stages.
It had looked like LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl would be set for a first MotoGP pole on home soil, the German topping the timesheets when the deluge hit and most riders pulled back into the pits with 20 minutes to run. The rain abated, however, and those out on track began to improve, acting as a catalyst for a rush out of the pits and an incredible finish to the session.
Ducati's Nicky Hayden kicked off proceedings by going fastest with seven minutes to run, only to be immediately demoted by Bradl, Yamaha's Ben Spies and then Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow. Hayden was soon back at the top of the times, but as the two works Hondas also got up to speed the pole spot changed hands almost every time one of the seven came over the line.
With one minute to go the sequence was still being repeated. Hayden went fastest, only for Stoner to take it just before the checkered flag flew. On their final laps Crutchlow, Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and then Spies all went top, but Stoner was still out on track and came round in a 1m31.796s to finally earn pole.
Spies and Pedrosa did enough to take second ahead of Crutchlow and Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, leaving Bradl sixth on the grid for his home grand prix. Hayden slipped to seventh, having been third with less than one minute on the clock. Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi on the second works Ducati rounded out the top 10.
The early torrential conditions caught out several riders, particularly at the treacherous Turn 12 where both Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) and Michele Pirro (Gresini FTR) fell heavily.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Casey Stoner Honda 1m31.796s
2. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m31.989s + 0.193s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m32.081s + 0.285s
4. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m32.288s + 0.492s
5. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m32.381s + 0.585s
6. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 1m32.510s + 0.714s
7. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m32.795s + 0.999s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Tech 3 Yamaha 1m33.205s + 1.409s
9. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m33.217s + 1.421s
10. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia 1m33.900s + 2.104s
11. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 1m34.088s + 2.292s
12. Hector Barbera Pramac Ducati 1m34.542s + 2.746s
13. Colin Edwards Forward Suter-BMW 1m34.649s + 2.853s
14. Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 1m34.651s + 2.855s
15. Mattia Pasini Speed Master Aprilia 1m34.938s + 3.142s
16. Danilo Petrucci Ioda-Aprilia 1m35.590s + 3.794s
17. Michele Pirro Gresini FTR-Honda 1m35.595s + 3.799s
18. Yonny Hernandez Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m35.962s + 4.166s
19. Ivan Silva Avintia Inmotec-Kawasaki 1m36.183s + 4.387s
20. James Ellison Paul Bird Aprilia 1m36.355s + 4.559s
21. Franco Battaini Cardion Ducati 1m36.438s + 4.642s