Nicky Hayden came within 0.091secs of claiming his first MotoGP pole position of the 2008 season, at Phillip Island on Saturday, but was forced to settle for his second front row start in as many races.
The Repsol Honda rider took provisional pole three times during the one hour session, but was nudged from the top by Casey Stoner with less than one minute remaining - then lost a further position to rookie Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.022secs.
"The front row is always really important and I'm happy to there, but to be honest I'm a bit disappointed," confessed Hayden, fastest on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. "I've had a couple of poles here before, and today another one certainly wasn't out of the question, there was less than a tenth in it.
"I would really liked to have been on pole, the season's on its way out, so it would be nice to have salvaged one of them. But we have been competitive all weekend, fastest this morning and in the rain yesterday, so we're not too far away.
"I know the race isn't going to be easy, we need to sweeten up the bike to see if we can get some more traction, also the rider's going to have to get it together a little better.
"The team is doing a great job here, everyone at Repsol Honda is working hard and the Michelin tyres seem to be good. I'll try to get in there tomorrow and not let these guys get away from me," declared Hayden, who now has just three more races as a Honda rider.
"Nicky did a very good job today, so he will be able to start from the front row tomorrow," said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. "His motivation is very high at the moment and this will give him an extra boost for the race. His race pace is quite good and he really likes this racetrack, so we hope he can have a great race and fight for the win."
Hayden's Bridgestone-shod team-mate Dani Pedrosa will start from sixth position and has confidence in his race pace.
"All in all, it was a positive day, I have a good race pace, which is most important, and I'm feeling quite confident for the race," he said. "Tomorrow it will important to have a good start, the first laps will be crucial. Tyres consistency will be determined but it is also very physical race.”
"Dani has a very good race pace and his target is victory," confirmed Yamano. "We are expecting a tough battle because there are many competitive riders with a similar race pace."