Cal Crutchlow matched his best MotoGP qualifying by claiming third on the grid for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix, putting him on course to once again fight for a debut rostrum.

Crutchlow also qualified third for the Qatar season-opener, but this time was the top Yamaha rider. The Englishman led the restarted session with six minutes to go, but later lost out to Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.

Nevertheless, Crutchlow put his Tech 3 Yamaha just 0.101s from pole.

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"To be back on the front row again is a really great achievement for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and this is reward again for all of our hard work," he said. "I am really happy as well to be the fastest Yamaha because that proves what a good job all of us are doing.

"I felt really comfortable and confident on the soft tyre and felt I could be fighting for the front row. I was actually going to scrap my best lap but I made up some time in the last sector and it was good enough for the top three.

"I'm happy with that but we still have to improve the bike a bit more for the race. I want it to turn a little better and brake a little better. I am looking forward to the race but it is going to be a difficult job. We know Jorge is going to be there and a podium will be very hard but as always I'll try my best."

Championship leader Lorenzo, who led much of the session, eventually slipped to fourth place, while Crutchlow's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso also dropped down the order.

The Italian will start seventh after qualifying 0.755s from pole.

"I'm quite angry to have qualified down in seventh today because we could have done much better," he said. "It is always tricky when you have to start from the third row of the grid and I hope my starting position is not going to hamper me at the start of the race.

"Getting a good start will be crucial but I am really satisfied about my pace on the hard tyre. I was third fastest and only 0.2s behind Lorenzo on the hard tyre, so I think my rhythm for the race is going to be very competitive."

Today's qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Portugal proved to be a frustrating one for both Yamaha Factory riders. Jorge Lorenzo led for most of the session until a red flag incident between Colin Edwards and Randy De Puniet forced a restart with nine minutes remaining.

A mixture of heavy traffic along with a lack of confidence in certain corners resulted in a gradual drop to a grid position of fourth on the second row, just 0.278 seconds from pole. This will be the first time since 2008 that Lorenzo has not started from the front row of the grid at Estoril.

"The main problem for me today was that in turn one and two I couldn't enter aggressively so I lost a lot of time in this section. In general the bike is not giving me a good feeling so this lap time was the maximum I could get today. We are in fourth but tomorrow is going to be hard as I have to try to pass Cal who is a hard braker! I will keep thinking positive and see what we can do."

"It was a tough qualifying, we were on pole up until nine minutes to go so I think fourth looks worse than we actually are. 0.2 of a second is not a lot. We are still struggling on rear grip in corner entry; especially the first two splits so we need to improve the bike. If we can do that we have a good chance to battle at the front tomorrow."