Ahead of his first chance to wrap up the 2009 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi pulverised the opposition during qualifying at Sepang - which ended with the Italian claiming a record-equalling 58th pole position in grand prix racing by 0.569sec.

Riding in a roasting Malaysian air temperature of almost 100 degrees and track temperature of 130 degrees, the Fiat Yamaha star was fast from the start of the session, initially trading the top spot with Casey Stoner before making it his own throughout the second half of the hour.

Starting from his seventh pole of the year, Rossi can afford to lose 13 points to team-mate Lorenzo on Sunday and still be crowned MotoGP champion - for the seventh time - one round early.

The 30-year-old now joins Mick Doohan at the top of the pole position list, although Doohan - a five time 500cc world champion in the 1990s - claimed all of his 58 poles in the premier-class, whilst Rossi's are divided 48 (500cc/MotoGP), 5 (250cc) and 5 (125cc).

Lorenzo, the only rider than can prevent Rossi winning the world championship, spent much of qualifying one-second slower than the #46.

Shaking his head in obvious frustration, Lorenzo was still down in fifth (+1.125sec) with five minutes remaining - but the Spaniard, whose perfect record of 2009 front row starts came to an end last weekend in Australia, fought back in the closing minutes to qualify second on the grid, just over half a second from Rossi.

Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, fastest in Saturday morning practice, was third behind Rossi and Stoner for much of the session - where he ultimately finished, 0.736sec from pole, after a last-minute swap of second with countryman Lorenzo.

Fourth fastest Stoner was the last rider within one second of Rossi, but finished the session visibly frustrated - while Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi was far happier with his fifth position after such a tough weekend last time out in Australia.

Toni Elias was the top satellite Honda rider in a creditable sixth for San Carlo Honda Gresini, while Stoner's factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden will start from seventh position, half a second behind Stoner.

Randy de Puniet improved to eighth on day two for Honda LCR, with Colin Edwards - who had complained about a lack of engine performance from his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 on Friday - only ninth.

The good news for Edwards was that factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, whom Edwards is battling for fifth in the championship, was only eleventh, behind Gresini's Alex de Angelis.

Aleix Espargaro, riding in place of the injured Niccolo Canepa during his third Pramac Ducati appearance of the season, advanced from 17th and last on Friday to 14th on Saturday morning and then 13th in qualifying - just one place behind permanent Pramac rider Mika Kallio.

Chris Vermeulen will start his penultimate race for Suzuki from a lowly 14th, with Hayate's Marco Melandri (who, unlike most of the field, did not test at Sepang in the winter) 15th.

Tech 3's James Toseland - who had expected to rise up the order with a 'fresh' engine - a disastrous 16th, ahead of only Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda).


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