Former MotoGP star Toni Elias will start the first ever Moto2 grand prix from pole position, after putting his Gresini-run Moriwaki 0.128sec clear of Julian Simon in Saturday night's qualifying session at Qatar.

A frantic end to the session saw half a dozen riders in contention for pole and by the time the chequered flag was waved the top four positions were covered by less than 0.2sec - and the top 13 by less than one second.

Pre-season favourite Elias, who recently underwent double surgery for fractures to his hand and ankle sustained on the very last day of pre-season testing, fought through the pain to edge out Aspar RSV's reigning 125cc world champion Simon - just in front of him on track - and Saturday morning pace-setter Stefan Bradl (Suter).

Moriwaki hadn't had a single bike in the top ten on Friday and the competitiveness of the new class was further indicated by five different chassis designs in the top five places in qualifying.

Behind the top three, Elias' former MotoGP team-mate Alex de Angelis claimed the last place on the front row for Scot Racing, with Yuki Takahashi fifth for Tech 3. Tech 3 also produced the best team showing of the night with Raffaele de Rosa in seventh, as the French-built chassis sandwiched Frenchman Jules Cluzel of Forward Racing.

As required by the rules, the huge 41-rider Moto2 field are all using identical 600cc four-stroke Honda-built engines, which are mounted inside prototype chassis designs from 15 different manufacturers.

A standard ECU means electronic rider aids are banned, while engine speed is limited to 16,500 rev/min and engine power is estimated at 120-125bhp. Dunlop is the exclusive tyre supplier. The wailing four-cylinder four-strokes replace the 250cc (two-stroke) World Championship, which began in 1949.

The 250cc fastest race lap at last year's rain-shortened event was 2min 1.752sec by Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda). The Qatar 250cc race lap record is 1min 59.379sec, by Alex Debon in 2008.

Qualifying - Qatar:

1. Elias (Moriwaki) 2m 1.904s
2. Simon (RSV) +0.128sec
3. Bradl (Suter) +0.134sec
4. de Angelis (Scot) +0.197sec
5. Takahashi (Tech 3) +0.391sec
6. Cluzel (Suter) +0.462sec
7. de Rosa (Tech 3) +0.656sec
8. Debon (FTR) +0.855sec
9. Tomizawa (Suter) +0.867sec
10. Baldolini (ICP) +0.962sec

17. Redding (Suter) +1.225sec