Loris Capirossi put Suzuki back in MotoGP contention, after a disastrous Australian Grand Prix, by qualifying in fifth place for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

Sixth in Friday practice, Capirossi slumped back to tenth on Saturday morning before running top six throughout the qualifying hour.

His fifth place on the grid - 1.198sec from pole sitter Valentino Rossi but just 0.2sec behind Casey Stoner - is Capirossi's best qualifying since Mugello in May and gives the experienced Italian a chance to fight for his 100th podium during Sunday's race.

"We struggled a lot up until this afternoon's qualifying practice, because we were always trying to find the best solution for setting-up the bike," explained Loris. "We changed the front a little bit for this afternoon and immediately on the first run I knew the bike was really working well.

"I am quite happy with my lap-time, because it was hot this afternoon and the bike worked well. My rhythm is good around here and I think that tomorrow we have the chance to start well and make a really good race. I am happy and I want to say well done and a big thanks to all my crew, because they have done a great job today," he added.

Team manager Paul Denning admitted Capirossi's pace was just what the team needed after being uncompetitive throughout the Phillip Island weekend.

"It is amazing how things can change in just a few short days; the mood in the camp is now obviously a fair bit lighter than it was last Sunday evening!" he said. "Loris did so well to come back from the situation last weekend and to push his - and the bike's - limits to the full today.

"Middle of the second row and 'best-of-the-rest' status puts Loris in a great position to go with the front guys tomorrow and try to secure our best result of the season tomorrow afternoon."

But things weren't so positive on the other side of the Suzuki garage, with Chris Vermeulen only 14th fastest.

"It was a difficult and disappointing session out there this afternoon," he confirmed. "We haven't really improved on the bike from yesterday and it was hard work today.

"Most of the guys went a lot quicker on the softer tyres, but for me it was almost impossible to use it because I just couldn't get the grip I wanted, so I carried on using the harder tyre - which we will use in the race - and that was a lot better.

"We know what pace we can run on in the race and we know our speed and potential lap-times, but unfortunately we're starting from a long way back and it's going to be tough."

Whilst not wanting to directly criticise a rider that will soon be leaving the team, Denning suggested that Vermeulen needs to up his game.

"Chris has to be disappointed with the result, he's better than that and as Loris has shown today - in these conditions and on this track - so is the bike," said Denning. "Over one second to your team-mate is a big gap and I hope that Chris comes out tomorrow with some fire in his eyes to show us what he can really do."

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