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.