Casey Stoner will start his final race as a Ducati rider from the front of the MotoGP grid after a typically determined ride in the Valencia sunshine during qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Stoner struggled to find a set-up he was entirely comfortable with throughout the 45-minute qualifying session, but still took pole by 0.331sec from world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

"This morning we were struggling a little bit with the front because you have to spend a lot of time at this circuit with the bike leaned over, so this afternoon we tried a lot of different things without really finding the right feeling," said Stoner.

"When I went out on a soft tyre I didn't think I'd be able to beat Jorge or Marco [Simoncelli] but it gave me the confidence I needed to go much faster and I set a lap time I was very happy with.

"I actually made a couple of mistakes on my last two laps otherwise I think I could have improved it but the important thing is that I was able to give Ducati another pole position before I sign off.

"There are a couple of sections where we need to improve for tomorrow but other sections that remind me of Phillip Island in the way I can attack them so overall I am comfortable and confident."

The 2007 world champion, the most successful rider of the 800cc era in terms of race wins, will be chasing his 24th Ducati victory on Sunday before moving to Honda.

"It will be an emotional day I'm sure tomorrow but for now my job is to focus on the race and achieving the best result possible."

Team-mate Nicky Hayden also enjoyed a positive afternoon, qualifying inside the front two rows for the fourth successive race.

The American will start fifth on the grid, just in front of countryman Ben Spies, Hayden is tied with Spies for sixth in the championship heading into the 18th and last round.

"The middle of the second row isn't a disaster," said Nicky. "The track seemed to really come in this afternoon and immediately on hard tyres we were a lot faster than we've been all weekend.

"We made a couple of little changes this afternoon and straight away I made up the couple of tenths I've been lacking so far. When we put the first soft tyre in I got straight into the 1'32s and with the second one in the first split I had a moment with the front and that's not the way you want to start your first flying lap.

"It cost me a little confidence and maybe a place on the front row because even though I managed a 1'32.4 I wasn't able to find those last couple of tenths. Each tenth makes a big difference around here so we have to claw for every one we can get.

"Tomorrow ain't going to be cake, I know that, but I want to finish the year with a strong result and I'm looking forward to it."

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