Sunday's Grand Prix of Catalunya looks set to be a showdown between Fiat Yamaha team-mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, with two other riders poised to threaten.
Lorenzo got the better of his illustrious team-mate by just 0.013sec at the end of qualifying, handing the home hero his third pole of the year and maintaining his perfect 2009 front row record.
However, Lorenzo also put together the most impressive multi-lap run, earlier in Saturday's qualifying session.
During a 16 lap race simulation, using the extra hard rear tyre, Lorenzo set three laps under 1min 43sec and 14 laps under 1min 44sec. The Spaniard's best lap was a 1min 42.797sec.
For comparison, Rossi's longest run lasted for six laps, five of which were below 1min 43sec with a best of 1min 43.117sec.
World championship leader Casey Stoner, who qualified third on the grid for Ducati, only put together three consecutive fast laps, one of which was below 1min 44sec (a 1min 43.344sec).
The other man to watch on Sunday will be Andrea Dovizioso, who qualified his Repsol Honda in fourth place but previously put together a competitive seven-lap run which contained five laps under 1min 44sec. The Italian's best during that run was a 1min 43.349sec.
“I'm so happy to be here on pole in front of my home fans at this track, which I really love,” said Lorenzo. “Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult race for everyone and I am expecting a very good fight with Valentino, who has a very strong pace.
“It looks like Stoner and Dovizioso will be there too so I hope it's an exciting race for the fans!” confirmed the double 2009 race winner. “I have a good rhythm here and I feel very comfortable on the bike so I am just going to stay focused and think about having a great race.”
“For us to start on pole here, at Jorge's home track, is brilliant and we couldn't ask for anything more,” said Lorenzo's team manager Daniele Romagnoli. “Jorge clearly has extra motivation in front of the Spanish fans but he did a great job today throughout both sessions and he has an excellent race pace.”
Lorenzo - who crashed out of the previous Spanish round, at Jerez, and failed to start last year's Catalan race following a practice accident - will begin Sunday's race four points behind Stoner and five ahead of Rossi.