In terms of pace, Sunday's US Grand Prix looks like being a two-rider battle between Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, after a tense qualifying battle.

Stoner held provisional pole position for much of the hour-long qualifying session, but a late effort from title leader Lorenzo edged him out by just 0.191sec.

Third on the grid Andrea Dovizioso was almost half a second slower than Stoner.

"We're closer to the front than last week, but we still need to improve the bike before tomorrow," said Stoner.

"I'm a little disappointed that we didn't make full use of the session this afternoon and ended up going back to the setting we had this morning. We tried a few different things that weren't really working and unfortunately one of the settings took a long time to change, so we wasted time there.

"I thought we could have gone a bit quicker today considering how good the bike felt from yesterday to this morning, but we just didn't take that extra step. Hopefully we can take it in the warm-up and have our most competitive race of the season tomorrow," added Stoner, who has been third at the last three rounds.

Despite his cautious words, Stoner has his best chance of a 2010 victory since falling from the lead in round one at Qatar.

Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden will start from seventh position, but is confident of a strong race.

"To qualify seventh with such a big gap to Jorge isn't good enough here at my home race so I'm obviously disappointed but we're not going home yet. We'll be back tomorrow ready to step our game up and get in there," said the double US GP winner.

"The team did a good job from the morning to the afternoon today, which was the first real step we've made this weekend, and really we're only three tenths from the front row so it's not too bad in that regard. It's my home race so I want to get amongst them, have some fun and put on a good show."

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