Casey Stoner continued his perfect form at the Qatar Grand Prix during Saturday's qualifying session, handing the Australian pole position for the 2009 MotoGP season-opener - while new Ducati Marlboro team-mate Nicky Hayden was hurt in a huge fall.

The American, who suffered technical problems in both free practice sessions prior to qualifying, was thrown down the track after a highside while pushing to improve on 16th position at the very end of the 45-minute session.

Hayden was left conscious but clearly in pain and, after receiving medical attention at the side of the track, was taken to the medical centre. The 2006 world champion is due to make his 100th MotoGP start in Sunday.

By contrast, Stoner's night went perfectly to plan; the 2007 champion hitting the top on only his second lap, then held a one-second lead over reigning six time world champion Valentino Rossi for most of the session.

Rossi responded with eight minutes to go, closing to within 0.270sec of pole, but Stoner found a further 0.218sec in the closing stages to finish the session with an overall advantage of 0.473sec over the Fiat Yamaha star.

Nevertheless, Rossi had been just 0.096sec slower than Stoner in the previous free practice session and is confident of fighting to prevent the #27 taking his third Qatar victory in a row on Sunday.

Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, on pole for his MotoGP debut at Qatar last season, could also play a leading role on Sunday after claiming the final front row start. Lorenzo made several appearances in third position and confirmed the place with a best lap just 0.024sec slower than Rossi.

New Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso produced a commendable performance to net fourth place (+0.691) on his factory RCV debut, with Loris Capirossi the lead Rizla Suzuki in fifth position (0.863sec).

Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, third on Friday, dropped to sixth in qualifying, but will be satisfied to start on the second row. Heading row three will be LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, with Chris Vermeulen eighth on the second GSV-R.

Gresini Honda's Alex de Angelis, the leading Honda rider on Friday, had to settle for ninth in qualifying, with rookie Mika Kallio also dropping positions to start his first premier-class race in tenth for Pramac Ducati.

Marco Melandri had continued a very impressive debut for the Hayate Racing Team, previously the factory Kawasaki team, by setting the fifth fastest lap time in final practice earlier on Saturday evening.

The Italian couldn't repeat that performance in qualifying, but eleventh position was five places higher on the grid then he'd been as a factory Ducati rider at Qatar last year. Kawasaki qualified tenth and 18th with John Hopkins and Anthony West at Qatar 2008.

Toni Elias will make his factory Honda debut from twelfth place for Honda Gresini, with James Toseland the slowest M1 rider in 13th, 2.224sec from pole.

Dani Pedrosa, who describes himself as '60-70 percent' fit following recent knee and forearm surgery, progressed up the order from 18th and last on Friday to 14th in qualifying, putting him on target for a handful of points on Sunday.

Fellow injured Spaniard Sete Gibernau will start his first MotoGP race since 2006 from 15th for Grupo Francisco Hernando, with rookies Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) and Niccolo Canepa (Pramac) completing the order behind the unfortunate Hayden.

The new single-tyre rule has ended the use of super-soft qualifying tyres, meaning all grid positions were decided using race rubber, with low fuel.

Incredibly, it began raining immediately after the qualifying session finished. Track action at Qatar will not take place in the wet due to glare from the floodlights.

Warm-up and the race will take place on Sunday night.

1. Stoner
2. Rossi
3. Lorenzo
4. Dovizioso
5. Capirossi
6. Edwards
7. de Puniet
8. Vermeulen
9. de Angelis
10. Kallio
11. Melandri
12. Elias
13. Toseland
14. Pedrosa
15. Gibernau
16. Hayden
17. Takahashi
18. Canepa


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Congratulations Casey!!!
You are the best.Nicky I hope all is going to be right for you.