Jorge Lorenzo, who can win the 2010 MotoGP World Championship with ninth or better in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, will start the race from pole position after overcoming a surprise challenge from Nicky Hayden in qualifying.
The Fiat Yamaha rider took his sixth pole of the season by 0.1sec from the Ducati rider, who had been only eleventh in this morning's final practice! Hayden put his Desmosedici on pole with four minutes to go, but Lorenzo snatched it back with one minute remaining.
Second is Hayden's best qualifying as a Ducati rider, and only his second front row start since leaving Honda at the end of 2007.
Yamaha riders held the top four positions with 15 minutes to go, but Lorenzo will be the only M1 on the front row with lone Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso claiming a late third place.
Rookie Ben Spies joined Lorenzo and Hayden in holding pole during the final third of the hour, but the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider later ran wide at the final hairpin after overtaking team-mate Colin Edwards as he sought to regain the position.
Spies, on pole at Indianapolis, will start at the head of row two in fourth.
Starting alongside Spies will be Hayden's team-mate Casey Stoner - winner of the last two races - and Lorenzo's team-mate Valentino Rossi, both of whom were surprisingly unable to produce a pole challenge.
Edwards will start from seventh, with Alvaro Bautista just getting the better of Suzuki team-mate Loris Capirossi for eighth. Capirossi missed this morning's practice session after being bucked from his GSV-R at high-speed on his out lap.
It looks increasingly likely that Bautista will be Suzuki's only MotoGP rider in 2011.
Dani Pedrosa, the only rider that can still beat Lorenzo to the championship, is not present this weekend after fracturing his collarbone at Motegi.
13. de Puniet