Ben Spies claimed a 'surprise' front row start for Sunday's Australian MotoGP, an event where he looks set to wrap up the 2010 Rookie of the Year title.

Spies, the only rookie to take pole or a podium this year, claimed his third front row start of the season despite sitting out the final stages of qualifying.

"I'm really happy to be on the front row again but a little bit surprised," said the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider. "I was really happy with my pace and the lap times earlier in the session but each time I tried to go quicker in the last part I'd have spots of rain on my visor.

"I'd warm up the tyres and see nothing but as soon as I'd push going into the first corner to start a fast lap, I was getting a lot of rain on my visor. I didn't want to take a big risk when I knew I was already pretty close to the front row."

The rain duly got heavier and all riders pitted with two minutes to go.

Spies, a WSBK race winner at Phillip Island in 2009, thinks he has a real chance of fighting for his third podium of the year on Sunday.

"My qualifying time is a pace that I can run in the race, so I'm happy with that. I'm confident because I haven't finished a session thinking I put in a great session," he said.

"So if we can put everything together and ride really well and the bike is working good, maybe I can fight for the podium.

"I've got the lap time to make the podium but I just want to make the bike better for the last ten laps of the race."

Spies outqualified fellow rookie Marco Simoncelli by just 0.016sec, but the Texan can afford to lose 9 points to the Gresini Honda rider on Sunday and still secure the Rookie title with two rounds to go.

"It would be nice to clinch the Rookie of the Year title tomorrow. It would be another box ticked in what has been a really positive season so far," said Spies, who will join the factory Yamaha team in 2011.

Team-mate Colin Edwards completed an excellent qualifying for Tech 3 with fifth on the grid.

"It was almost my best qualifying result of the season but I'm happy with fifth and being so close to Ben on the front row gives me a lot of confidence for the race," said Edwards. "I have felt really good on the bike today and finishing second this morning gave me a lot of confidence.

"I had a fairly good set-up this morning with the bike but I was just missing a little bit of turning performance. We left the bike for the start of qualifying and I was basically doing the same lap times as this morning. So we made some changes to the front for my last rear tyre and immediately I was able to go half-a-second faster.

"It just felt easy and I gained so much confidence that I could put the bike where I wanted it to be on the track. I'm happy with my race pace and I'm ready, so hopefully I can get my best result of the year. We'll have to see what the weather throws at us but I'm ready for anything."

Edwards hasn't finished higher than fifth this season.


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