Casey Stoner has taken his ninth pole position of the year during the last qualifying session of the 2008 MotoGP season, at Valencia.

The 2007 world champion emerged on top of an action-packed session, which took place on an all-but-dry track - with overcast skies threatening rain at any moment, prompting the MotoGP field to push hard right from the start of the session.

Nicky Hayden, fastest in all three free practice sessions, ruled much of the hour - at one point by almost a second - before being toppled by future team-mate Stoner with 14 minutes to go.

Hayden, desperate to end his Honda career with his first pole of the year, made several thrilling attempts to beat the Australian - his Repsol Honda sliding and spinning its way around the twisty Spanish circuit as Hayden pushed his rear Michelin over the limit.

The American got within 0.14sec of Stoner on his first attempt, but Casey responded by propelling his Ducati a further 0.4sec clear. Hayden got within 0.2sec on his last flying lap, but was then denied second position when Bridgestone-shod team-mate Dani Pedrosa delivered an excellent final lap to jump from seventh to second, just 0.053sec from Stoner.

Hayden was riding with a logo saying 'unforgettable 9 years' on the seat of his leathers, referring to the end of his long career as a Honda rider, which stretches back to AMA racing.

The leading Yamaha qualified in fourth position for Sunday's race - but it wasn't six time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi.

The Fiat Yamaha star, looking to reverse his last two nightmare appearances at Valencia, made a brief appearance on the provisional front row but looked to be struggling with rear traction problems and - prompted by the weather - had used up all of his qualifying tyres with five minutes still to go.

The Italian was left just tenth on the grid and thus faces a tough challenge if he is to end his eighth world championship winning season with a tenth victory.

In his absence, Tech 3 team-mates Colin Edwards and James Toseland upheld M1 honours, the American featuring strongly during the second half of the session to qualify half a second behind Hayden. Edwards was the last rider within one second of Stoner, while Toseland saved his best for the closing minutes for an impressive fifth - having earlier been robbed of a fast lap by a slow moving Marco Melandri.

Randy de Puniet put his LCR Honda into sixth position, despite a fall, while Jorge Lorenzo overcame a horrendous start to the session - he was still 18th and last with 20 minutes to go - to salvage seventh on the grid in the final minute on his Michein-shod Fiat Yamaha.

Loris Capirossi was the leading Rizla Suzuki qualifier in ninth, with fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso ninth on his final qualifying appearance for JiR Team Scot.

Toni Elias and Chris Vermeulen will line-up alongside Rossi on row four, while Sylvain Guintoli rode through the pain of his Friday injuries for 13th, ahead of his final MotoGP race before moving to BSB in 2009.

John Hopkins was the top Kawasaki rider in 14th, while Gresini Honda's Shinya Nakano - whose full-time MotoGP participation looks set to end on Sunday - slipped back to 15th after being a leading contender in the early stages.

Alex de Angelis will conclude his rookie season with a 16th place start, with Anthony West 17th in his final MotoGP qualifying session before moving to WSS. Melandri, who was an impressive third this morning, will start his final Ducati grand prix from last place.

Qualifying:

1. Stoner
2. Pedrosa
3. Hayden
4. Edwards
5. Toseland
6. de Puniet
7. Lorenzo
8. Capirossi
9. Dovizioso
10. Rossi
11. Elias
12. Vermeulen
13. Guintoli
14. Hopkins
15. Nakano
16. de Angelis
17. West
18. Melandri

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