Alvaro Bautista took a close, rain-delayed, pole position for the first round of the 2009 250cc World Championship, in Qatar.
Rain began falling immediately after the MotoGP qualifying session, forcing a delay for the quarter-litre riders. Track action at Qatar does not take place in the wet due to glare from the floodlights.
Fortunately the moisture passed, allowing the 250cc field out on track, whereupon Bautista and new Scot Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama proved to be the men to beat.
Ultimately, Bautista triumphed by less than one tenth of a second over the former factory KTM rider, with reigning 125cc world champion Mike di Meglio - team-mate to Bautista at Aspar Aprilia - qualifying third for his 250 debut.
Sunday's front row will be completed by Hector Barbera, with Hector Faubel at the head of row two and the second best Honda behind Aoyama. Friday pace setter and 250cc rookie Gabor Talmacsi qualified sixth.
Injured reigning 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli withdrew from Sunday's race just before qualifying (see separate story).
Qualifying - Qatar:
1. Bautista (Aprilia) 2min 0.677sec
2. Aoyama (Honda) +0.100sec
3. di Meglio (Aprilia) +0.436sec
4. Barbera (Aprilia) +0.497sec
5. Faubel (Honda) +0.959sec
6. Talmacsi (Aprilia) +1.016sec
7. Pasini (Aprilia) +1.022sec
8. Debon (Aprilia) +1.036sec
9. Luthi (Aprilia) +1.061sec
10. Locatelli (Gilera) +1.162sec