Casey Stoner will start from pole for Sunday night's MotoGP season opener in Qatar, having fended off arch-rival Valentino Rossi in qualifying.
The duo battled for pole throughout the qualifying hour, with Stoner deposing Rossi just after the halfway point and then repeatedly improving until he reached a time of 1m55.007s. Rossi (Yamaha) edged closer, and was faster than Stoner around the first half of his final lap, but the Ducati's performance in the final sector was just too strong, and Rossi fell 0.355sec short around the lap.
Jorge Lorenzo shrugged off his injured hand to put the second Yamaha on the outside of the front row. Randy de Puniet sprang a surprise by taking fourth on the grid for LCR, making him both the top Honda and the best non-factory rider.
Loris Capirossi also produced a star underdog performance for the previously struggling Suzuki team, and will start fifth, ahead of the two works Honda and Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards.
Despite a low-key buildup to his first MotoGP qualifying session, 250cc champion Hiroshi Aoyama was the fastest rookie, taking 10th on the grid behind Nicky Hayden (Ducati) for MotoGP debutant squad Interwetten Honda. Hotly tipped Superbike champion Ben Spies was back in 11th on the second Tech 3 bike.
Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) and Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) both fell within the first eight minutes, before rejoining to take 12th and 15th respectively, while Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista took 13th on the grid then crashed on his last run.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m55.007s
2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m55.362s + 0.355s
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m55.520s + 0.513s
4. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m55.831s + 0.824s
5. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m55.899s + 0.892s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m55.963s + 0.956s
7. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m55.990s + 0.983s
8. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m56.005s + 0.998s
9. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m56.163s + 1.156s
10. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 1m56.227s + 1.220s
11. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m56.271s + 1.264s
12. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m56.283s + 1.276s
13. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m56.450s + 1.443s
14. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m56.652s + 1.645s
15. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m56.957s + 1.950s
16. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m57.130s + 2.123s
17. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m57.325s + 2.318s