Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa emerged on top of a dramatic qualifying session for the Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who needs one more victory to break his two-wins-a-year record ever since reaching MotoGP in 2006, took pole four times during the second half of the session - finally getting the better of Yamaha rookie Ben Spies by 0.338sec with less than a minute to go.
Meanwhile, MotoGP title leader Jorge Lorenzo and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi both finished the session on foot after crashing from their Fiat Yamahas. Lorenzo will join Pedrosa and Spies on the front row, with Rossi starting behind Casey Stoner (Ducati) in fifth.
Lorenzo had taken pole for the previous five races.
“It was a great qualifying session and to be back on pole position is fantastic after such a long time - the last time was in Italy at the beginning of June," said Pedrosa. "We've done a very good job so far this weekend and we have established a good pace for the race, but we still need to keep a clear mind, stay focused, and try to be ready for any conditions because the weather forecast for tomorrow is very uncertain.
"Anyway, the team did a very good job today and I hope if it's dry we can have a strong race and go for the victory. I won't really be approaching the race tomorrow with a particular strategy. In this championship you have to find your own limit because there are a lot of riders going fast and you can only concentrate on your own performance and do the best you can. So I really hope to do a great job tomorrow and at least to be back on the podium.”
“This was a powerful display by Dani and his crew today and it's great to see a Repsol Honda back on pole position," added team manager Toshiyuki Yamaji. "Dani has been strong all weekend and he did well to steer clear of trouble this afternoon and put his RC212V on pole while some of his rivals hit trouble. We will pay close attention to the weather conditions tomorrow of course, but I think Dani has a good chance to fight for victory in the race"
Pedrosa crashed from the lead last time out at Laguna Seca and, although still second in the championship, is 72 points behind Lorenzo.
Pedrosa's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was sixth quickest, with a gap of 0.609s to Pedrosa.
"We had a good pace today, and compared to last year here we have found more speed, whereas for some of our rivals this is not the case. This proves that our machine package has improved a lot from last year," said the Italian. "Our lap time was quite good this afternoon but we still have to work to improve our pace because Dani is quite a lot quicker and in the race he is usually very strong.
"In particular we need to work on the rear end because the machine is pumping and moving a bit too much. I think we are all at the limit with the front end as the accidents of Valentino, Jorge and Nicky (Hayden) show. I tried the hard option Bridgestone tyres today which we didn't have the chance to test yesterday. It was important to do this in order to be ready for all weather possibilities tomorrow, but I think we have to use the soft option tyres for the race.”