Andrea Dovizioso raised hopes of a record ninth different winner in MotoGP this season by claiming pole position for Sunday Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Ducati star, the only previous MotoGP winner still without a 2016 victory, ruled a wet qualifying session at Sepang.
The Italian was quickest early on using the softer wet tyre, then changed his strategy and pitted for the harder option. It proved a wise decision and he confirmed pole with an even faster lap at the very end of the Q2 shootout.
Dovizioso, who has finished runner-up three times so far this season, will be joined on the front row by Yamaha team-mates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
"At the end of the qualifying, the water was almost zero. So you have to adapt in every condition. It wasn't easy, but we did a great job," Dovizioso said.
"My strategy was to not stop and to make the qualifying with the soft [wet tyre]. But I knew that almost everybody else had the hard, so I thought maybe my strategy was wrong. But I was able to make a really good lap time in the first lap.
"Buy I feel in the entry of the corner, the movement was too much, so I couldn't make a second or the third lap [on the soft tyre]. I decided to come into the box – too late, because I didn't use the short cut [back to the pits, and that gave me the possibility to make just two fast laps with the hard tyre.
"The second one was enough to keep the pole position. So I'm really happy about that.
"This morning in the dry [I was eighth], it wasn't really good. But this weekend the conditions are strange because of the rain, but also because of the asphalt. The grip is really good, but it doesn't dry like normal, because there remained some wet patches.
"I hope tomorrow in the morning it will be dry, to try to improve the feeling with the bike. Nobody really wants to race in the wet, but if it happens, we are competitive."
Team-mate Andrea Iannone will start from the second row of the grid in sixth on his return from injury.
“Today was a bit more complicated than yesterday and this morning I struggled a lot to improve my times and go quicker. In the afternoon, on the wet track, we were probably missing some information, such as using the harder tyre for more laps to make the most of its performance, because yesterday I didn't take part in FP2 with the rain tyres.
"All in all however I am pleased I managed to qualify on row 2 with sixth quickest time, and I reckon I did a pretty good job, especially with these track conditions and in view of the fact that I am back after a gap of four races. Tomorrow we'll see how it goes, for sure we don't know what will happen.”
By Peter McLaren