Retired double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner put the Musashi Honda team third on the grid for Sunday's Suzuka 8 Hours, the Australian's first motorcycle race since 2012.

The 29-year-old is making his Suzuka debut alongside Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi, winners for the past two years at the factory Musashi RT Harc-Pro squad.

But it is event rookie Stoner who has led the CBR1000RR challenge this weekend, clocking a close fourth best lap time in both Friday qualifying (+0.307s) and Saturday's Superpole session (+0.335s). That put his team third on the grid, behind Yamaha Factory Racing and Team Green Kawasaki.

The single-lap Superpole format was another brand new experience for Stoner, who praised the spectacle.

"In practice this morning I had a small problem with the rear brake and we only got one lap in before the session ended. We went from that straight to the pole shootout, which is something I've never really experienced but really enjoyed," he said.

"I think the Suzuka circuit puts on a fantastic show. Watching each rider do the entire lap is really something exciting for the crowd. It was a new taste for me.

"I felt a little bit nervous on the front tyre because we had so much more rear grip, but anyway the bike was working well and I'm pretty happy and satisfied with the lap time.

"We've been working all week towards a long race and to immediately turn around and do a good lap time is tricky. But it's only one Superpole lap and tomorrow we have 8 Hours of racing, so I'm pretty sure the other sessions have been more important.

"We've got a couple of small things we'd like to improve for the race. Everyone is in the same position of believing they can be a bit faster. But this is the thing we have to live with, with three different types of riders and three different styles, you have to try and find the best compromise possible.

"We've done a good job so far. Everybody is pretty happy. It's going to be a long, hot race and we'll see what happens at the end."

Stoner also gave an insight into how it feels to be back at an FIM World Championship event, and what has changed from his MotoGP days.

"We're not really going into this race like I would in the past in MotoGP. That intensity has left me," he said. "It's a lot more relaxed atmosphere and this event has a more relaxed environment.

"You don't have the intensity of a sprint race of 45-minutes. This race is 8 Hours long and you have to work with your team-mates and the people around you.

"It's very different to what I'm used to and this is an event that I've had on my bucket list for many years. It's nice to finally be here without the added pressure these other guys have of being in the middle of their racing season.

"The only negative is, having such little time on the bike in the last three years, it takes a little while to get all the muscles and everything working again."

Sunday's race starts at 11:30am.

Suzuka 8 Hours: Top 10 grid positions
1.Espargaro*/Nakasuga/B. SmithYamaha Factory #21 2m 6.000s
2. Watanabe*/Yanagawa/YudhistiraTeam Green #872m 6.287s
3. Stoner*/Takahashi/VD MarkMusashi Honda #6342m 6.335s
4.Tsuda*/Lowes/WatersYoshimura Suzuki #122m 6.516s
5. Kagayama*/Kiyonari/HagaTeam Kagayama #172m 7.990s
6. Aegerter*/K. Smith/HookFCC TSR Honda #7782m 8.076s
7. Yamaguchi*/Wilairot/EliasToho with Moriwaki #1042m 8.382s
8.Nigon*/Deguchi/IzutsuTrickstar Kawasaki #012m 8.950s
9.Uramoto*/O'Halloran/Herfoss Sakuri Honda #712m 9.409s
10. Ogata*/Aoki/KonnoMotomap Suzuki #32 2m 11.019s*Set the team's fastest lap in Superpole.

Superpole lap time by each rider
1.EspargaroYamaha Factory #21 2m 6.000s
2.NakasugaYamaha Factory #212m 6.059s
3.WatanabeTeam Green #872m 6.287s
4.StonerMusashi Honda #6342m 6.335s
5.TsudaYoshimura Suzuki #122m 6.516s
6.LowesYoshimura Suzuki #122m 7.144s
7.TakashashiMusashi Honda #6342m 7.697s
8.KagayamaTeam Kagayama #172m 7.990s
9.AegerterFCC TSR Honda #7782m 8.076s
10.YamaguchiToho with Moriwaki #1042m 8.382s
11.HookFCC TSR Honda #7782m 8.472s
12.KiyonariTeam Kagayama #172m 8.806s
13.NigonTrickstar Kawasaki #012m 8.950s
14.YanagawaTeam Green #872m 9.006s
15.UramotoSakuri Honda #712m 9.409s
16.WilairotToho with Moriwaki #1042m 9.877s
17.O'HalloranSakuri Honda #712m 10.391s
18.DeguchiTrickstar Kawasaki #012m 10.771s
19.OgataMotomap Suzuki #322m 11.019s
20.AokiMotomap Suzuki #322m 11.681sOnly two riders from each of the top 10 teams participate in Superpole.