Valentino Rossi will start Sunday's US MotoGP at Laguna Seca from just tenth on the grid.
The Italian, set to decide his Ducati future during the forthcoming summer break, concentrated his efforts on race pace for much of the qualifying hour - and was already down to tenth by the middle stages.
The seven time MotoGP then wasn't able to find the performance boost required to move up the order during an end-of-session time attack.
Instead, Rossi's best time - set on his penultimate lap - was almost two-seconds from pole and over 0.7s from team-mate and top Ducati rider Nicky Hayden (seventh). Rossi was just 0.342s faster than the top CRT, of Aspar's Randy de Puniet.
“As long as we ride at our race pace, we're close to the two or three other riders in the second group. Unfortunately though, just like at the last race, when we try to do a fast time, we're not able to improve enough,” said the 2008 US GP winner.
“When I put on the soft tyre, it creates more problems, which really are always the same: to avoid having the tyres start sliding too much after a few laps, we must load the rear a lot, and that causes us to lose feeling with the front.
“As long as I ride at a 1:22 pace, I'm able to be pretty consistent, but when I have to push harder, the front starts to close. The bike moves a lot and I go wide. Anyway, we'll see. I'm tenth, but my rhythm is a bit better.
“Obviously, I'm expecting a difficult race tomorrow.”
Ducati announced a new deal for Hayden on Friday.