Casey Stoner claimed his fifth pole position of the 2011 MotoGP season with a record lap in the very brief period of dry running that Italian Grand Prix qualifying allowed.
The whole field came out on slicks on a drying track as soon as the session began, and by the halfway mark conditions were good enough for Honda rider Stoner to put in a 1m48.034s - narrowly beating Jorge Lorenzo's practice mark to become the fastest ever MotoGP lap of Mugello.
Shortly afterwards, the rain returned, starting as a persistent drizzle before getting harder, and that prevented anyone from improving. Indeed before a handful of riders emerged to try out the now fully wet track in the last five minutes, the circuit was completely empty for a long period.
Ben Spies followed up his Assen win by taking second for Yamaha, while Marco Simoncelli's third place on the Gresini Honda ended a string of five straight grands prix in which he had started first or second.
A frustrated Lorenzo did not manage to get a perfect lap in between the rainfall so ended up fifth, behind Honda's Andrea Dovizioso, and ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow.
Dani Pedrosa took ninth on his return for Honda after three races on the sidelines.
Seven-time Mugello MotoGP winner Valentino Rossi might have hoped his first appearance at his home race on an Italian bike would have been a joyful occasion, but his very tough campaign on the Ducati continued.
He will start way down in 12th - his GP11.1 outqualified not only by factory team-mate Nicky Hayden, but by the customer Ducatis of Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham.