Jorge Lorenzo's perfect run of Estoril MotoGP pole came to a frustrating end on Saturday, when the 2012 world championship leading sunk from first to fourth in the closing stages.
The Factory Yamaha rider, unbeaten in Portuguese qualifying since his 2008 MotoGP debut, ruled most of the hour-long session, but lost out badly after the red flag period following a nasty clash between Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards.
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, but just 0.278 seconds from pole.
“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,” said Lorenzo, seen shaking his head repeatedly after qualifying.
“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 [Crutchlow, third] who is a hard braker! I will keep thinking positive and see what we can do.”
Lorenzo's closest title rival, reigning world champion Casey Stoner, led a qualifying one-two for Repsol Honda.
Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies will start fifth.