MotoGP rookie Chris Vermeulen exploited treacherously wet conditions at Istanbul to secure a shock debut pole position ahead of Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix - and complete a dream turnaround for Rizla Suzuki.

Riding in only his fifth MotoGP appearance, Vermeulen delivered a faultless display of controlled aggression on his underpowered GSV-R - allowing the young Aussie to fend off a persistent attack from championship contender Nicky Hayden.

With the chequered flag waving, both Vermeulen and Hayden were still battling for pole - and on course to take the prize - but the Repsol Honda rider faltered; running off track after missing his braking point for the final chicane, ending his contest.

"We had a quite a good morning practice and made a few changes to the set-up, the tyres and with the engine management system and it all seemed to work really well," explained Chris. "From the start of the qualifying session the bike was working really well and it was comfortable to ride, even when the conditions got pretty bad and grip was hard to find.

"I did a few laps and then came back in and just watched the weather to see how much rain was about. I tried to go out in the better conditions and it turned out that it was best at the end. I just stayed out and tried to be as fast as I could and in the end I was faster than everybody!" he added.

Vermeulen's pole was Suzuki's first since Rio 2004 and provided exactly the sort of boost needed after the much publicised mechanical horrors experienced last time out in Qatar.

"We've had a few problems - especially last time in Qatar, which wasn't a great weekend for Suzuki - but this pole position will hopefully boost everyone's confidence, along with mine," confirmed Chris, who finished second in the World Superbike Championship last year. "I'm really happy; it's good to be fast in the rain, and it's the same conditions for everyone, but it'd be even better to have pole in the dry - we'll work on that one."

But spare a thought for team-mate John Hopkins, now in his fifth season of MotoGP (and fourth season at Suzuki) but is yet to take a pole position or podium finish. Hopper qualified a fighting fifth today, just over one second from Vermeulen, and sportingly put aside any personal envy to salute a great day for the team.

"First off I've got to say congratulations to Chris. That's a job really well done to get the pole position, and it's good for Rizla Suzuki and Bridgestone - awesome!" said the Anglo American. "As for ourselves we tried to get a good rhythm from the start and gradually get our pace up. We used the same tyres for the whole session even though I changed from one bike to another to try different settings. We found a set-up that will help us wet or dry, so we are really pleased about that.

"On the last lap I went a bit harder and managed to get a top five place, which was good because it was on a tyre that had been used to a full race distance. I'm happy with everything today as I don't think I put a wheel out of place all day, so I am ready for the race now - wet or dry," he added.

"We hoped for a turnaround after Qatar, but we couldn't have possibly expected one as big as today!" said a delighted Paul Denning, Rizla Suzuki team manager. "Both guys rode to the limit and Chris found an extremely fast rhythm early on and was able to maintain that all the way through. You could see that the bike and tyres were on the absolute limit, if it wasn't for the spray you might have thought it was dry, Chris was riding so aggressively.

"John chipped away at things and only a second off pole and a second row start is also a fantastic performance. Congratulations must also go to both crews, who made some detailed - but extremely important - changes to the GSV-R from this morning, making the bike more comfortable and manageable to ride.

"I've always said that we have a crew and two riders who are capable of running right at the front, and with the rain acting as something of an equaliser, this result shows the Suzuki Factory that Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is ready to move forwards as the bike steadily improves," added the Briton, his words providing gentle pressure for much needed further technical progress from the factory.

"If it's wet tomorrow we'll be going for the podium, if it's dry then we can expect both guys to ride to the full potential of the machine and I have no doubt they will do that," Denning concluded.