Alex de Angelis, out of Honda Gresini at the end of the year, came within 0.011sec of claiming his first front row start during qualifying at Indianapolis on Saturday.
Fifth in the wet conditions on Friday, de Angelis shot up to third in dry Saturday morning practice - and was holding that same position as the chequered flag was waved in qualifying.
However, reigning six time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi nudged de Angelis down to row two by a tiny margin on his very last lap of the day.
“Clearly I would have preferred to start on the front row but this is still a wonderful day for me,” smiled Alex. “The team have worked well and so far it has been a perfect weekend. It is never easy to get near the pace of the front three but I'm enjoying riding my bike here and we have never been this close, so I'm delighted.
“I could have gone even faster on a new tyre at the end but we had an electrical problem and I had to roll off the gas. It sorted itself out but by that time the tyre had gone cold and I couldn't push.”
de Angelis, who has scored points in every race this season, will start round twelve eleventh in the standings, but only twelve points behind seventh place Randy de Puniet - the top satellite Honda rider.
“I'll be going on the attack in the race because this is a big opportunity for me to score a top result and to move up in the championship, with there being a small gap to the guys currently ahead of me,” warned de Angelis, whose best MotoGP finish is fourth. “I have always believed I have the talent but it was good to show everybody today that when things are right I can be there.”
Team-mate Toni Elias will start a competitive seventh despite falling at the end of the session while trying to chase Rossi.
“I crashed, purely because I was pushing too hard to try and stay with Valentino,” he said honestly. “Having said that seventh on the grid isn't bad. The race will be pretty tough tomorrow so the target is just to get a good start and follow the group ahead of me.”
Honda Gresini has already announced that Italians Marco Melandri and Marco Simoncelli will ride for the team in 2010.