Alex Debon took provisional pole for the 250cc Japanese Grand Prix during his first visit to Motegi in over three years.
The Lotus Aprilia rider, increasingly linked with the Aspar Kawasaki ride, came back from an early crash in the afternoon session to repeat his free practice form, clocking a 1min 52.807secs that allowed him the top spot on provisional grid.
The provisional front row was separated by under a tenth of a second, with world championship leader Marco Simoncelli the closest to besting Debon's marker. Hector Barbera and Hiroshi Aoyama, the winner of the 2005 and 2006 races at Motegi, completed the frontline onboard their respective Team Toth Aprilia and Red Bull KTM machinery.
Winner of the last quarter-litre class race at Misano, Alvaro Bautista made his presence felt with a late lap of 1min 53.125secs, enough to place him at the head of the second row before Saturday's second qualifying session.
The Spaniard beat JiR Team Scot's home rider Yuki Takahashi, his Mapfre Aspar teammate Hector Faubel and Repsol KTM rider Julian Simon, who completes the second line.
First qualifying - Motegi:
1. Debon (Aprilia) 1min 52.807secs
2. Simoncelli (Gilera) +0.026secs
3. Barbera (Aprilia) +0.054secs
4. Aoyama (KTM) +0.095secs
5. Bautista (Aprilia) +0.318secs
6. Takahashi (Honda) +0.350secs
7. Faubel (Aprilia) +0.630secs
8. Simon (KTM) +0.767secs
9. Locatelli (Gilera) +0.825secs
10. Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.851secs