Valentino Rossi has taken his third 2004 victory in a row after winning a nail biting lights to flag duel with Sete Gibernau, which was only decided after contact between them a few corners from the finish.
Yesterday, the black clouds which had loomed ever since MotoGP arrived earlier in the week gave way to summer sun - and allowed Rossi to shine: The world champion had struggled to find a wet set-up for his Yamaha but wasted no time as the track dried, clocking a new pole record of 1min 58.758secs to take top spot from team-mate Carlos Checa by 0.682secs.
Championship leader Gibernau, who held a slender five-point advantage over Rossi heading into the race, was third fastest and top Honda, while Marco Melandri continued his good form - despite undergoing an arm operation last week - to make it three Yamahas in the top four.
Shinya Nakano again showed devastating qualifying pace on the Kawasaki with fifth, a best ever grid position for the Ninja ZX-RR, while Honda rider Alex Barros crashed early in the session but recovered to qualify sixth for his 200th premier-class GP.
Kenny Roberts continued his practice form, sealing seventh with a modified version of the Suzuki GSV-R engine, which features a revised firing order. Team-mate John Hopkins is still using the 'standard' motor but backed up a strong Assen record to qualify tenth, just behind Camel Honda's Makoto Tamada and the top Ducati of head-turning class rookie Ruben Xaus.
Tamada's team-mate Max Biaggi, who finished second to Gibernau last year, will have to make up positions from twelfth on the grid as he desperately tries to stay in the title chase, whilst last year's pole setter Loris Capirossi was two-seconds off his 2003 time and needs another good start from his factory Ducati to propel him from fifteenth.
The weather held overnight and a dry warm-up session saw front row qualifiers Rossi, Gibernau (+0.2secs) and Checa (+0.7secs) occupy the top three positions, as all teams worked frantically to find a dry set-up for this afternoon's race.
Those three pre-race favourites - along with Edwards, Hayden, Barros, Kenny Roberts, Hodgson, Capirossi and McWilliams - looked to have done just that this morning, but with so little dry running the 19 lap main event would be an even greater step into the unknown than usual.
When the red lights went out it was Checa that grabbed the initial advantage from Gibernau, Rossi, Barros, a fast starting Biaggi, Melandri, Xaus, Hopkins and Capirossi.