Casey Stoner celebrated his 25th birthday by claiming pole position for his home Australian MotoGP by 0.668sec from new world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Fastest this morning, Stoner was soon leading qualifying and only briefly bumped off pole - by Ben Spies after 19 minutes, then by Lorenzo after 47 minutes.
But the Australian quickly stamped out such opposition and Lorenzo was the only rider to lap within one-second of Stoner's pole time.
With such pace, Stoner clearly has an excellent chance of claiming his fourth home win in a row on Sunday, but as always at Phillip Island the weather will be factor.
Qualifying effectively finished two minutes early when rain began falling, although Spies seemed to sense the arrival of bad weather before his rivals and was already in the pits.
Although he qualified 1.2sec behind Stoner, that was enough for Spies to secure his third front row start for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, at a track where he won a race at on his WSBK debut in 2009.
Another rookie also thrived in the cool and windy conditions, with Marco Simoncelli claiming fourth on the grid for San Carlo Honda Gresini. Spies' team-mate Colin Edwards was fifth and Stoner's factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden sixth.
Hayden crashed at low speed in the final five minutes, but the rain meant the tumble didn't cost him as much as it might have.
The rain certainly didn't help Valentino Rossi though, who lost out on the chance to try and avoid a season worst eighth on the grid.
Rossi, who will start just behind LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, was 1.520sec slower than Stoner.
Another Italian, Andrea Dovizioso, also had a session to forget. The Repsol Honda riders, second at the last two races, managed only ninth place and was almost two seconds from Stoner.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa, returning just two weeks' after a multiple collarbone fracture, qualifying 15th on the grid, ahead of only Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), who both limped away from sizeable falls.
7. de Puniet