Casey Stoner will start his final Catalunya MotoGP from pole position after edging out title rival and home favourite Jorge Lorenzo by 0.146s during a scorching qualifying session.

The pole is Stoner's 40th in grand prix and second of the year, while championship leader Lorenzo makes his return to the front row for the first time since round two at Jerez.

Joining them on the front row will be Cal Crutchlow, who qualified in the top three for the third time this season for Tech 3 Yamaha.

The big loser from Saturday's session was Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, fastest in morning practice, who ran off in the closing minutes after getting his Repsol Honda sideways under braking.

The former Catalan winner will start his home round from fifth position, albeit only 0.361s from pole.

Alongside Pedrosa on row two will be Factory Yamaha's Ben Spies (fourth) and Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso (sixth). Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Pedrosa all featured on pole in the final 20 minutes.

Having run the harder tyre for much of the weekend, reigning champion Stoner - who plans to retire at the end of this season - naturally received a speed boost by switching to the softer tyre for his time attack in the closing stages.

The Australian set pole with nine minutes of the hour remaining, his 1m 41.295s lap just a fraction behind his own pole record set with qualifying tyres in 2008.

While others - especially the Yamaha riders - have spent large amount of time on the softer tyre, Stoner feels it could drop off significantly during the race and is confident his focus on the harder option is the correct approach.

Sunday's race could thus feature the greatest tyre variation of any round so far.

The Tech 3 Yamahas seem certain to race the soft option, while Lorenzo - who starts round five with an eight point advantage over Stoner - appears open to both options.

While the top six riders were covered by just 0.361s, seventh placed Nicky Hayden was 0.734s from pole. Rookie and last year's Catalan Moto2 winner Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) will start next to the American, whose factory Ducati team-mate Valentino Rossi qualified ninth, 0.880sec from Stoner.

Rossi, who tried a new aluminium swing-arm in Friday's practice sessions, switched back to carbon-fibre design on Saturday and ran the composite throughout qualifying. Hayden, like Rossi, is running new electronics this weekend, but didn't try the aluminium swing-arm after suffering chatter at the Mugello test.

Alvaro Bautista, a surprise second on Friday afternoon with the soft tyre, couldn't extract any further speed from his Gresini Honda and will start from tenth - but just one-second from Stoner.

Satellite Ducati riders Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham, who fell at the end of the session, completed the manufacturer line-up.

Aspar Aprilia rider Randy de Puniet qualifying as the top CRT by half a second, but Colin Edwards - making his MotoGP return after missing Le Mans with a broken collarbone - made significant gains to claimed 14th on his Forward Racing Suter-BMW.

Qualifying:

1. Casey Stoner
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Cal Crutchlow
4. Ben Spies
5. Dani Pedrosa
6. Andrea Dovizioso
7. Nicky Hayden
8. Stefan Bradl
9. Valentino Rossi
10. Alvaro Bautista
11. Hector Barbera
12. Karel Abraham
13. Randy De Puniet
14. Colin Edwards
15. Aleix Espargaro
16. Michele Pirro
17. James Ellison
18. Mattia Pasini
19. Yonny Hernandez
20. Danilo Petrucci
21. Ivan Silva

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its raining
R O S S I R O S S I R O S S I R O S S I RO S S I R O S S I R O S S I R O S S I R O S S I

Freakin traffic at the end.