Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa grabbed a front row start for Sunday's opening round of the MotoGP World Championship in Qatar as the Spanish star saved his best performance until it really mattered.

Pedrosa, last year's series runner-up, had been no higher than sixth on the time sheets during the free practice sessions at Losail, but dug deep to put his factory RC213V into third place behind Yamaha duo Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow in Q2.

There was plenty of drama in the decisive 15-minute qualifying session, which has been introduced as a new format for 2013, with light contact between Pedrosa and team-mate Marc Marquez in the closing minutes.

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Pedrosa was then demoted by Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso before regaining his front row status with a final lap of 1m 55.152s.

"Today we were able to improve a lot and take a front row start for tomorrow," said Pedrosa. "It is important to start high up the grid whenever you can, because there are some very fast riders up against us.

"We still need to improve a few things with the bike and I hope that we can have a good race," he added. "The key will be to choose a good tyre compound and find a strong pace."

Pedrosa's best lap was 0.437s behind Lorenzo at the top of the times and 0.235s adrift of Crutchlow on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha machine.