Nicky Hayden was in contention for his first MotoGP pole of the season at the conclusion of Saturday's wet/dry session at Sepang, but ran out of front grip halfway through his final lap.
The Repsol Honda rider was on pole pace during the first two splits, after which his front qualifying tyre cried enough. The front hadn't been changed during Hayden's final pit stop due to a shortage of time and he was eventually forced to settle for fourth, whilst Bridgestone-shod team-mate Dani Pedrosa snatched the pole from Yamaha's Valentino Rossi.
"It was quite a wild day," began Nicky. "This morning we improved quite a lot, but so did everybody else. It wasn't spectacular but we definitely made an improvement, at times we were really competitive. This afternoon was pretty gnarly. We started on full wets and the track kept drying and drying. We ended up fourth which isn't a disaster.
"At one stage near the end I was 15th, thankfully we didn't get any big showers then, so I was able to get in a good lap, but I really wanted to be on the front row. I was fastest in T1 and T2 on my last qualifier. But lately I can only get one run out of my qualifying fronts and we didn't have enough time to change the tyre, because with the big discs we use here it take a while to change. So I did two runs on it and midway round my last lap she was done and I lost some time.
"I'm a little bit bummed, I haven't had a pole all year and every year for the last few years I've had at least one," he admitted. "The rear Michelin qualifier was amazing, it was ridiculous how much grip it had, even across the wet patches. If we can make a little step in the morning, get the bike turning a little better, I feel like I can be competitive. It's going to be a long, hard race if I'm going to hang in there."
Hayden will be chasing his third podium in four races during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
"Nicky got the second row which is great, because I think he can fight at the front tomorrow," said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. "He still wants to make a few little improvements to improve machine turning, so the morning warm-up will be very important for him. Nicky's motivation is very high, he wants to score another podium."