Marco Simoncelli took his fifth 250cc pole position of the season with the fastest lap of the second qualifying session, with a 1min 51.473secs time denying 2005 and 2006 Motegi race winner Hiroshi Aoyama the top spot for his home grand prix.
Simoncelli took his Metis Gilera RSA around the Japanese circuit some 1.4 secs faster than his provisional front row time from Friday.
Aoyama joins the world championship leader on the frontline as he makes his own charge for a first win of 2008, whilst provisional pole sitter Alex Debon held on to a place on the first row.
Rounding out the front row will be Aoyama's Red Bull KTM team-mate Mika Kallio, the winner of last year's race and a contender for this year's title. The track has been KTM territory over the past three years, but this season features two powerful foes for the Austrian factory in the form of the Gilera and Aprilia machines alongside them.
Mapfre Aspar rider and frequent podium finisher Alvaro Bautista heads the second row, alongside teammate Hector Faubel, Julian Simon and home rider Yuki Takahashi, who was announced yesterday as an entrant in the MotoGP World Championship for 2009.
Although he had done enough for a third row start in the opening qualifying session, Hector Barbera will not be in action after crashing in the Saturday morning free practice session. The Team Toth Aprilia rider picked up fractures to his fourth and fifth thoracic vertebrae, and has been withdrawn from the next three grands prix as a precaution.
Final qualifying - Motegi:
1. Simoncelli (Gilera) 1min 51.473secs
2. Aoyama (KTM) +0.246secs
3. Debon (Aprilia) +0.285secs
4. Kallio (KTM) +0.292secs
5. Bautista (Aprilia) +0.348secs
6. Faubel (Aprilia) +0.500secs
7. Simon (KTM) +0.560secs
8. Takahashi (Honda) +0.724secs
9. Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.755secs
10. Locatelli (Gilera) +0.786secs