Casey Stoner has taken his and Ducati's first MotoGP pole position since round one of 2010, by beating title contenders and home Spanish stars Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa in qualifying for the 13th event of the season, at the new Aragon circuit.
Stoner was a pole contender throughout the shortened 45-minute session, but lost the top spot to Pedrosa on several occasions before regaining P1 from the Repsol Honda rider for the final time with five minutes to go.
The Australian then improved further, while Pedrosa lost second to title leader Lorenzo – and was denied a last chance pole charge when he made a mistake on his final lap.
Stoner has not won a race this season, while Pedrosa will be seeking his third victory in a row on Sunday, and Lorenzo his third Spanish victory of the season. Lorenzo is 63 points ahead of Pedrosa in the championship, with Stoner tied for fourth with Valentino Rossi.
Reigning champion Rossi, Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team-mate, failed to make an impression in qualifying and was outside the top ten with eight minutes to go. The Italian eventually recovered to seventh, his joint worst qualifying of the season.
Starting between Pedrosa and Rossi will be Nicky Hayden (Ducati), Ben Spies (Tech 3 Yamaha) and randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), while Pedrosa's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso will start alongside The Doctor in eighth.
San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli was the second best rookie, after Spies, in ninth, with fellow newcomer Hector Barbera completing a top ten covered by 1.146sec.
Colin Edwards was the slowest Yamaha rider in eleventh, with the lone Suzuki of Alvaro Bautista twelfth and fellow Spaniard Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Ducati) 13th.
Marco Melandri might wish his WSBK move was coming sooner rather than later after qualifying 14th, with only Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda) and Mika Kallio (Pramac Ducati) behind the Italian.
Friday had seen the return of two practice sessions (of 45 minutes instead of the usual one hour) in a trial system which will be reviewed following the GP. Saturday's final practice session and qualifying were also 45-minutes, to avoid extra strain on the engines.
Aragon was called up to replace the unfinished Balatonring circuit in Hungary. It is supposed to revert to reserve status after this year's event, but few will be surprised if Aragon remains on the MotoGP calendar for 2011 and beyond.
Aragon is the third of four MotoGP rounds in Spain this year.
6. de Puniet