Joan Olive took provisional pole for the 125cc Japanese Grand Prix, heading a qualifying session that took place on a drying track.
The Belson Derbi rider, who finished fifth at the soaking 2007 race at Motegi, is chasing his first pole position in the class, and a 2min 2.296secs time put him halfway towards his qualifying goal.
Polaris World rider Bradley Smith also pencilled his name onto the front row, the only Aprilia rider to do so in the session as Derbi-armed competitors dominated the top five.
The Briton was a tenth of a second down on Olive's time, with series leader Mike di Meglio and his Ajo Motorsport teammate Dominique Aegerter completing the frontline after the opening session.
Indianapolis poleman and raceday runner-up Pol Espargaro missed out on a provisional front row spot by just 0.029, and leads row two alongside the man who beat him to victory stateside, Nico Terol. Recuperating World Champion Gabor Talmacsi came back from a morning crash to join the trio, with Sandro Cortese completing the second line.
Whilst world championship leader Di Meglio was able to place in the top four, main challenger Simone Corsi was only capable of 21st on the provisional grid.
First qualifying - Motegi:
1. Olive (Derbi) 2mins 2.296secs
2. Smith (Aprilia) +0.126secs
3. di Meglio (Derbi) +0.277secs
4. Aergerter (Derbi) +0.559secs
5. Espargaro (Derbi) +0.588secs
6. Terol (Aprilia) +0.709secs
7. Talmacsi (Aprilia) +1.030secs
8. Cortese (Aprilia) +1.198secs
9. Bradl (Aprilia) +1.211secs
10. Iannone (Aprilia) +1.238secs
16. Webb (Aprilia) +1.716secs
20. Redding (Aprilia) +2.450secs