San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli bounced back from his Friday fall to qualify quickest of the five Laguna Seca first-timers.
The Italian rookie claimed ninth on the grid and will start next to two very experienced Americans - seventh fastest Nicky Hayden and eighth fastest Colin Edwards.
“I'm quite happy with that," said Simoncelli. "We were struggling yesterday but that was normal because it was my first time at the track and considering everything it wasn't so bad. We weren't brilliant this morning, when we spent the session on a used tyre and made a few changes to the setting that didn't quite work.
"Thanks to the help of our Japanese technician from HRC, who made a suggestion about the set-up, the bike immediately felt better and I was able to ride alone and make progress. I wasn't following anybody for my fastest lap so that gives me a lot of confidence for the race.
"I'm happy I know my way around Laguna Seca now and I think I have the Corkscrew sorted out, so all in all I am satisfied.”
Team-mate Marco Melandri will start two spots behind Simoncelli. The track has always been good to Melandri and he was hoping for more of the same. This weekend the team received upgraded electronics, which should be of great help, but can be tricky to adapt to in the short term.
“It has been a difficult day and we have struggled a lot. The new electronics package definitely has a lot of potential but we need more time to set it up – we are still a long way from getting the most out of it," he said.
"In qualifying this afternoon (Mika) Kallio got in my way in the Corkscrew when I was on my fastest lap and I lost it. But that doesn't cover up the fact that we are still some way off where we should be.”