Frenchman Randy de Puniet produced a sizzling performance at Phillip Island to claim the best qualifying result by a CRT rider this season in ninth place.

The Power Electronics Aspar rider's 1m 31.667s lap put him ahead of factory Ducati star Nicky Hayden and just 0.006s adrift of Valentino Rossi in eighth.

De Puniet, who starts from row three at the penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship on his ART, had been seventh fastest in morning practice.

He has failed to score points at the previous two rounds of the championship and is desperate to close the 10-point deficit to team-mate Aleix Espargaro in their personal duel to end the campaign as top CRT rider.

Espargaro qualified in 12th position, three tenths of a second behind De Puniet, who felt he had the potential to improve his pace further until conditions changed at the end of final qualifying.

"I am really happy with the way things are going this weekend," De Puniet said.

"We have been fast from the start and my feeling with the bike is great here.

"I am really enjoying myself and I hope this continues tomorrow through to the end of the race.

"We start from the third row, which is a great achievement for a CRT bike, having been seventh fastest this morning," he added.

"I think we could have gone even faster in qualifying this afternoon but the conditions changed at the end of the session.

"Anyway I feel comfortable and confident. The objective is to hang on to the prototypes in the race and see what happens."

De Puniet is focused on closing the gap to Espargaro, but isn't taking anything for granted as he bids to claw back ground.

"I need to pull as many points back as possible on my team-mate but it will be tough because he is looking strong here too," he said.

"Today was a great day; hopefully tomorrow is another one."