Saturday's wet qualifying session at the Sachsenring came down to another head-to-head contest between Fiat Yamaha team-mates and title leaders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

Defying the worsening weather, the pair slotted into first and second with 15 minutes remaining and, whilst other riders chose to back off, became locked in a gripping battle for pole that seemed to represent more than just a few metres of grid advantage.

Rossi starts round nine just nine points ahead of Lorenzo and keen to keep a lid on the young Spaniard's growing confidence, particularly with Lorenzo apparently questioning why he should earn so much less than the Italian.

The 22-year-old dragged pole away from Rossi with seven minutes to go, then improved it further with three minutes remaining.

That looked to have Rossi on the ropes but, as has happened so many times before, the reigning six time MotoGP world champion delivered a last-gasp knockout blow, blasting 0.640secs under Lorenzo's best.

"I'm really happy for this pole because it means I've already got more than in the whole of last year!" said Rossi after his third pole of the 2009 season. "Getting the pole position here is very important for the race because it's such a hard place to overtake, so I'm really happy.

"At the end it was really very difficult and we were right on the limit because there was so much water on the track, but I knew I could push a bit more and the result was this great lap.

"I really hope it's dry tomorrow - for the sake of everybody - but at the moment it's doubtful so at least we can be confident that we're well prepared in the wet as well."

Lorenzo, riding with shoulder and ankle injuries sustained at Laguna Seca, shrugged off the qualifying defeat and has at least continued his impressive statistic of a front row start at every round so far this year.

"Yesterday I was quite worried about my injuries but I am happy to say that today I feel a lot better and I was able to ride much more strongly and brake much later," he revealed. "I was really fast in the dry this morning and then this afternoon I did a lot of consistent laps, improving all the time, which is very good because often I struggle in the wet.

"At the end it was very easy to crash so I didn't want to push too much or take too many chances, it was important to be careful! Second place is very good and I'm happy about the work we've done. I hope I feel even better tomorrow for the race and of course that the weather is a bit better too," he added.

Third in the championship Casey Stoner (Ducati) joins the pair on the front row after lapping a further six tenths behind Lorenzo in qualifying.

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