Casey Stoner was leading the qualifying timesheets at Sepang with just over one minute of an unpredictable hour remaining, but a pit mistake left the Ducati Marlboro star helpless to defend the position and he slipped all the way back to seventh by the time the track action was over.
Stoner had pitted for a tyre change shortly after setting his fastest lap of the session, with five minutes remaining on the fast-drying track, but a small mistake in the garage saw the Australian head out on track for his final attempt without enough time to complete his flying lap before the chequered flag was waved.
"Unfortunately qualifying was a bit of a lottery with the way the track dried out and we missed the chequered flag with my final qualifying tyre by just twenty seconds, so that was frustrating," said Casey. "Anyway, the most important thing is that we're in good shape for wet or dry conditions so I'm looking forward to going out and having some fun in the race.
"The guys did a great job with the bike overnight and in the dry this morning it felt much better than it had done yesterday," he stated. "My pace was good and I felt much more comfortable. We struggled a little bit in the afternoon because there wasn't enough weight on the rear but we didn't really get much time to work on that because it dried out so quickly. In any case, the wet pace was pretty good so if it rains tomorrow, which looks likely, then I'm confident we'll have a good set-up."
Team-mate Marco Melandri could only manage 14th place on the grid.
"The conditions today were a little strange but in the end the track was dry so I can't blame that for my 14th place," said the Italian. "I know I'm repeating myself but I don't have any feeling with the bike in these conditions and that's despite doing a good job with my team on the set-up here. It is going to make it difficult tomorrow, especially with such tough conditions that we always have to deal with here in Malaysia."