Valentino Rossi's rollercoaster season took another twist at Phillip Island as the Italian, a race winner for the first time since April in last weekend's Sepang race, was left eighth on the grid in qualifying - his worst grid position since 2008.
The Australian event has special significance for Rossi, since it is the home round of his predominately Australian pit crew and a track he loves.
But the Italian superstar struggled for set-up, and then was held up on his soft tyre runs.
All of which contributed to the outgoing seven time world champion being left 1.52sec from Casey Stoner's pole - and the slowest of the four Yamahas.
"I was really unlucky today because with each of the softer tyres, when I think I could have improved a bit, I had problems," said Rossi.
"First it was Espargaro, then Hayden's bike on the track and then it began to rain, so I couldn't use any of the tyres how I wanted in the end.
"We start from the third row, which will be very hard, especially because our race pace isn't that strong and we don't have the right set-up yet. We need to work hard tonight and tomorrow morning to try to improve.
"The conditions aren't good and it's a great pity because this is a fantastic track but you can't enjoy it in this cold, because it takes so long for the tyres to get to the right temperature. Tomorrow will be hard, but we will see what we can do."
After a bad start, Rossi rode from 13th on lap one to first at Sepang last weekend.
Rossi also rode from 12th on the grid to second in the 2008 Australian Grand Prix.