MotoGP World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo took his third pole position in a row, during qualifying at Catalunya on Saturday.
The Fiat Yamaha rider, winner of the last two races to hold a 47 point advantage over Dani Pedrosa, concluded the hour 0.364sec clear of the field - but he far from dominated the hour-long session.
Instead it was Randy de Puniet who led from the 5th to 50th minute, whereupon Ducati's Casey Stoner suddenly leapt from tenth to pole.
Stoner seemed to be angry with both the handling of his GP10 and the behaviour of other riders, whom he later accused of constantly trying to follow him.
The 2007 world champion held pole for less than a minute before Lorenzo took it from him, and the Spaniard made a further improvement to confirm his third pole in a row.
Starting on the front row for the third time in as many weekends will be de Puniet, who was bumped down to fourth by Dani Pedrosa in the final minute, then retaliated to take third place back from the Repsol Honda rider.
Rookie Ben Spies made a dramatic improvement on his final lap to rise from eleventh to fifth, but his body language after the flag suggested more was possible, while Andrea Dovizioso made it two factory Hondas on row tow – having been runner-up to de Puniet for most of the session.
Row three will be headed by Loris Capirossi, who got his season back on track with seventh for Rizla Suzuki, while the rise of rookie Aleix Espargaro was best illustrated by the Pramac Ducati rider being visibly disappointed with eighth place (he was fifth this morning).
Fellow rookie Marco Simoncelli briefly held fourth on his way to ninth, while former 250cc rival Alvaro Bautista also peaked in fourth before claiming tenth on the second factory Suzuki.
Two disappointed Americans are sure to be Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), in eleventh and twelfth, while Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati) claimed 13th, the injured Marco Melandri (Honda Gresini) 14th and Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) 15th.
Fiat Yamaha have replaced injured world champion Rossi with test rider Wataru Yoshikawa from this weekend, while Hiroshi Aoyama - injured at Silverstone - is once again replaced at Interwetten Honda by HRC test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi.
As on Friday, Akiyoshi just edged out Yoshikawa, with the pair 3.5sec and 3.7sec from pole - and 1.9sec from Kallio.
3. de Puniet