Casey Stoner produced a stunning performance in qualifying to claim pole position for the first MotoGP race at Aragon.
The Australian Ducati rider dueled with Spanish home hero Honda man Dani Pedrosa for the top spot for most of the session, but prevailed with the only lap of the weekend below 1m49s, giving Stoner his first pole since the season opener in Qatar five months ago.
The session burst into life during the final five minutes as Stoner knocked Pedrosa off the top of the timesheet with a 1m49.152s lap, before improving to 1m48.942s on his final run with two minutes left to run.
"We've had plenty of other weekends where everything's gone reasonably well leading up to the race," said Stoner, who is still searching for his first win of 2010. "I'm a little bit happier with the bike this weekend. We've changed my riding position and the weight distribution and got a bit more grip out of it. The rear of the bike is a little bit more stable, the front a little bit more nervous, but I feel pretty confident with the bike."
Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) leapt up into second spot with a late run. He complained of dropping straightline speed and acceleration to the Ducatis and Hondas.
Pedrosa was two tenths up on Stoner on his final lap of the session, but braked too late and ran off the road at a blind-entry left-hander and missed out on snatching pole. The Spaniard will line up third for tomorrow's race.
"Third position is not so bad," said Pedrosa. "The front row is very important because the first corner is very close. I hope to do a great start and a great race tomorrow."
Stoner's Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden took fourth, ahead of American Ben Spies (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda).
Valentino Rossi continued to struggle with his shoulder injury, which causes him pain under braking. 'The Doctor' made a late improvement to seventh after a host of setup changes to his Yamaha during the session.
Andrea Dovizioso (Honda), Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) and Hector Barbara (Aspar Ducati) rounded out the top 10.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m48.942s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m49.251s + 0.309s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m49.343s + 0.401s
4. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m49.506s + 0.564s
5. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m49.565s + 0.623s
6. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m49.952s + 1.010s
7. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m50.017s + 1.075s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m50.046s + 1.104s
9. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m50.088s + 1.146s
10. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m50.323s + 1.381s
11. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m50.440s + 1.498s
12. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m50.523s + 1.581s
13. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m50.537s + 1.595s
14. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m50.580s + 1.638s
15. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 1m50.836s + 1.894s
16. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m51.490s + 2.548s