Casey Stoner will start the final round of 2009 as he began the season, on pole position, after claiming his third pole of the year during qualifying at Valencia.

Fastest in free practice, Stoner pushed his Ducati to the limit with a series of perfectly controlled slides as he dominated the one-hour qualifying session - which he finished with an advantage of 0.263sec and 0.281sec over home Spanish stars Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha).

Stoner, who won from pole at Valencia last year, will be fighting for his third race victory in a row on Sunday having been classified second, first and first since his comeback from a three-round break to treat fatigue problems.

Newly crowned seven time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi spent much of the session in the lower end of the top six, before making late progress with his factory M1.

The Italian took third place with ten minutes to go, but then lost out on a front row start when Pedrosa improved. Rossi qualified 0.666sec behind Stoner, but still won the 2009 BMW Best Qualifier award. The Italian has taken seven poles this year, more than any other rider.

Completing a Yamaha three-four-five on the grid will be Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, who put himself on course to bridge the four-point gap to fifth in the championship Andrea Dovizioso by qualifying five places in front of the factory Honda rider.

On the outside of the second row will be fellow American Nicky Hayden, who was the final rider within one-second of team-mate Stoner.

Randy de Puniet put on an excellent display for much of the session, but fell from his LCR Honda while holding fourth with 18 minutes to go. The Frenchman then lost further positions to Rossi, Edwards and Hayden and will start from seventh, just in front of Gresini Honda's Toni Elias.

2009 World Superbike champion Ben Spies - who had been 15th and 2.239sec from the top in Friday practice, then 12th and 1.377sec on Saturday morning - qualified in a commendable ninth (+1.283sec) for his Yamaha MotoGP race debut.

The American languished back in 16th for the first half of the qualifying session, then leapt spectacularly forward to seventh just after the midway point.

Sunday's race will be his fourth outing in the premier-class, after a best finish of sixth (in the wet, eighth in the dry) during three rides with Rizla Suzuki in 2008.

Spies, who qualified a best of fifth at Indianapolis last season, is riding a fifth YZR-M1 and will replace James Toseland at Tech 3 Yamaha in 2010.

The top Suzuki was Loris Capirossi in 13th, while Toseland's last MotoGP race before switching back to WSBK will begin from a disappointing 14th on the grid.

Marco Melandri qualified his Hayate-run ZX-RR 15th for Kawasaki's last MotoGP race, while Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) will start his final grand prix for the foreseeable future from a disastrous 18th and last.

Qualifying:

1. Stoner
2. Pedrosa
3. Lorenzo
4. Rossi
5. Edwards
6. Hayden
7. de Puniet
8. Elias
9. Spies
10. Dovizioso
11. Kallio
12. de Angelis
13. Capirossi
14. Toseland
15. Melandri
16. Espargaro
17. Talmacsi
18. Vermeulen

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