Casey Stoner claimed pole position for the MotoGP season-opener with another commanding performance in Qatar.
The result came as no surprise after the Australian had been quickest in all three practice sessions, though his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa made Stoner work for it. Stoner had been quickest almost from the outset, but going into the closing stages Pedrosa managed to edge ahead with a 1m54.758s.
He did not stay in front long before Stoner put in a 1m54.375s - and then made his pole position even more emphatic by lapping in 1m54.137s a few minutes later. That time stood for pole, as although Pedrosa improved, he remained 0.205sec adrift.
MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo could only get within 0.8sec of Stoner as he completed the front row on the best of the Yamahas. He was just ahead of Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies on the second Yamaha.
Valentino Rossi's Ducati career got off to a low-key start with ninth on the grid. The seven-time MotoGP champion was not even the fastest Ducati, as Aspar's Hector Barbera repeated his shock practice form with sixth on the grid. Rossi's factory teammate Nicky Hayden was way back in 13th.
While Stoner and Pedrosa gave Honda a 1-2, the works team's third rider Andrea Dovizioso was thoroughly outpaced by his teammates. Only 11th going into the final three minutes, he eventually salvaged seventh.
Cal Crutchlow was one of the stars of the session. Despite suffering an unpleasant finger injury in testing at the start of the week, the World Superbike convert took an excellent eighth on the grid for his MotoGP debut, two places ahead of his Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Colin Edwards.
Only 16 bikes will take the start, with Suzuki absent after its sole rider Alvaro Bautista broke his left leg in a practice crash, and efforts to bring in John Hopkins, Nobuatsu Aoki or a Moto2 rider as a short-notice subtitute did not pay off.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Casey Stoner Honda 1m54.137s
2. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m54.342s + 0.205s
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m54.947s + 0.810s
4. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m54.988s + 0.851s
5. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m55.095s + 0.958s
6. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m55.223s + 1.086s
7. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m55.229s + 1.092s
8. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m55.578s + 1.441s
9. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m55.637s + 1.500s
10. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m55.647s + 1.510s
11. Randy de Puniet Pramac Ducati 1m55.656s + 1.519s
12. Hiroshi Aoyama Gresini Honda 1m55.724s + 1.587s
13. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m55.881s + 1.744s
14. Loris Capirossi Pramac Ducati 1m56.323s + 2.186s
15. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 1m56.665s + 2.528s
16. Toni Elias LCR Honda 1m57.992s + 3.855s