Casey Stoner will start Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, the event where he claimed Ducati's first ever MotoGP title one year ago, from second on the grid despite a frustrating qualifying session at Motegi.
The young Australian suffered problems on two of his three qualifying runs, culminating in a bug being splattered across his visor as he began his final pole attack.
"I'm a bit disappointed with qualifying," said Casey, who lapped 0.288secs behind Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. "Of the three qualifying tyres you use the first one to try and get used to it and build from there, but the second tyre unfortunately seemed to be a bit of a dud - it just didn't work - so I decided to cancel the lap and then on the third one I got a big bug on my visor at the start of the lap.
"I couldn't get the rip-off visor off because I was trying to push, so the bug distracted me and I couldn't see properly for the whole lap. It's a little bit frustrating. Things just seem to keep happening lately with the wrist [injury] and everything else. It's not going my way," said Stoner, who fell from the lead at Brno and Misano before finishing fourth last time out at Indianapolis.
"Anyway, second place is still good and tomorrow's another day. We're in good shape for the race and we'll do the best we can."
Valentino Rossi will start Sunday's race from fourth on the grid and with an 87 point lead over Stoner. Rossi can afford to finish third, even if Stoner wins, to secure the 2008 crown with three rounds remaining.
Meanwhile, if Stoner felt frustrated then he perhaps understands something of what team-mate Marco Melandri has gone through for most of this season.
The Italian, already confirmed as joining Kawasaki for 2009, dropped from an encouraging eighth on Friday to just 16th in qualifying.
"Today went more or less like the whole season," admitted Marco. "When the conditions are bad and the pace drops we're able to go well, but with a dry track the same old problems come back. I'm quite strong on the brakes and on the way into the corners but I'm really, really slow on the exit because I can't get the throttle open. The bike is moving around so much and that clearly isn't my style of riding. Unfortunately I'm expecting a tough race."