250cc World Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama claimed only his second pole position of the 2009 season at Sepang on Saturday, while title rival Marco Simoncelli was left over one-second behind in eighth.
Reigning champion Simoncelli has closed to within 12 points of Aoyama with victory in four of the last five races, but has struggled all weekend in Malaysia and will start only eighth on the grid for Metis Gilera.
Jules Cluzel provided Aoyama's closest opposition with his first ever front row start for Matteoni Aprilia, having lapped 0.332sec behind the Japanese, with Aspar Aprilia class rookie rider Mike do Meglio third and Hector Barbera fourth for Pepe World Aprilia.
Third in the championship Alvaro Bautista will head row two on the second Aspar bike, with Thai star Ratthapark Wilairot starting sixth for PTT Honda at the nearest thing to a home grand prix.
Qualifying - Sepang:
1. H. Aoyama (Honda) 2min 6.767sec
2. Cluzel (Aprilia) +0.332sec
3. di Meglio (Aprilia) +0.465sec
4. Barbera (Aprilia) +0.534sec
5. Bautista (Aprilia) +0.604sec
6. Wilairot (Honda) +0.895sec
7. Faubel (Honda) +1.061sec
8. Simoncelli (Gilera) +1.149sec
9. Luthi (Aprilia) +1.182sec
10. de Rosa (Honda) +1.186sec