Casey Stoner looks set to battle for his first ever Jerez podium after claiming third on the grid in Saturday's qualifying session.

Jerez is one of only two circuits on this year's calendar where Ducati's 2007 world champion Stoner has not finished on the podium in any class of grand prix racing (the other being Indianapolis).

In his three years at Jerez on a MotoGP machine, Stoner's best result has been fifth in 2007, after starting from fifth on the grid - his previous best MotoGP qualifying result at the fan-packed circuit.

Last year the Australian finished a frustrated eleventh after twice running into the gravel, but he now looks on course to achieve his goal of staying in touch with the title leaders during the opening half of the 2009 season.

The Qatar winner, who will start the event third in the championship behind Fiat Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo (+3 points) and Valentino Rossi (+2 points), battled the windy conditions to lap just over 0.4sec behind local stars Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

"Our bike has never really worked well here in the past but we worked hard during the test and over the past two days to come up with a package that is at least competitive," said Stoner, who won a BMW by being fastest during the Jerez pre-season test.

"This morning it felt really good and even though we weren't top of the time sheets I felt confident. Unfortunately the wind tends to unsettle our bike and it was pretty hairy out there this afternoon - it certainly didn't help me feel more confident with the bike after the front end issues we had yesterday!

"I set myself the target of a position on the second row so to get on the front row is an unexpected bonus and it will be really helpful for tomorrow.

"Until the last couple of years I'd always found it hard to do well in my home race but the Spanish and Italian guys always seem to find an extra gear on their own turf.

"The support for Dani and Jorge is fantastic, they are both riding well and they'll definitely be competitive tomorrow. It should be great fun!" concluded Casey.

Reigning MotoGP world champion Rossi will start behind Stoner in fourth, while Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden qualified 17th.

"This morning certainly went a lot better, I thought we'd found a good way forward with the bike but this afternoon I had a very different feeling," said Hayden, tenth in morning practice. "The wind certainly didn't help things but that is the same for everybody. It was very unstable in the fast corners and just not holding the line.

"We tried our best to fix it but things just didn't go nearly as smooth as we'd like and we've ended up with a difficult grid position. We'll see what we can do about it tonight. We'll make a few small adjustments to the bike, make a few tweaks to the set-up here and there and see how it goes in warm-up.

"The only thing is that it's quite cool here in the morning compared to the afternoon and, like today, the feeling with the bike changes a lot without touching a thing. It's going to be tough but we'll keep working hard and hopefully be in shape to put on a good show for these incredible fans tomorrow afternoon."