The Rizla Suzuki star, who took his first MotoGP pole in the wet at Istanbul last year and his first win in the wet at Le Mans this year, had been just 15th fastest in the dry morning session - but the arrival of rain once again transformed his fortunes.

The 25-year-old took his first pole of 2007, and third of his young MotoGP career, after dislodging countryman Casey Stoner by just 0.017secs with 16 minutes of the hour to go. The MotoGP World Championship leader, fastest on Thursday, had previously dominated much of the session, but Vermeulen finally got the better of the Ducati star - just before the rain increased even further, preventing a Stoner retaliation.

At the conclusion of the session, the two Aussies remained in a class of their own - with best-of-the-rest Randy de Puniet having lapped one second behind Stoner as the Frenchman, second fastest in the dry on Thursday, put Kawasaki on the front row.

The first five places on the grid were all occupied by Bridgestone riders, with Valentino Rossi - fastest in the dry this morning - a dismal 15th as the last fifteen minutes began. With his back against the wall, Rossi produced a typically determined charge in the closing stages but eventually qualified his Michelin-shod Fiat Yamaha just eleventh. The Doctor, already frustrated by his tyres after limping to fourth last weekend at a wet Donington Park, must now pin his hopes on a dry race as he seeks to close the 26 point gap to Stoner.

Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards was the best Michelin rider - the Texan claiming sixth on the grid, 1.136secs from pole, after being left outside the top ten for much of the hour. However, Marco Melandri produced an even greater miracle: The Italian had been nowhere for much of the session, and just 17th as the final stages began, but suddenly torpedoed up to third on his last lap - which became a still remarkable fourth after de Puniet's late charge.

Sandwiched between Melandri and Edwards on the second row will be Vermeulen's team-mate John Hopkins - on pole in the dry at Assen last season - while new Kawasaki signing Anthony West exploited the wet conditions to take seventh, although many predicted an even higher placing given the Australian's amazing rain record.

Alex Hofmann was a happy man after claiming eighth for Pramac d'Antin, while Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa - fastest of all just before the halfway stage - slipped back to ninth, but was still the second best Michelin competitor after Edwards. Stoner's team-mate Loris Capirossi completes the top ten.

World champion Nicky Hayden was unable to continue his encouraging form, qualifying a lowly 13th, while fellow American Kurtis Roberts will start one place behind after a giant killing performance early in the hour.

Rounding out the reduced 18 rider field, following Toni Elias' leg-breaking Thursday accident, will be Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha riders Sylvain Guintoli and Makoto Tamada.

Qualifying:

1. Vermeulen
2. Stoner
3. de Puniet
4. Melandri
5. Hopkins
6. Edwards
7. West
8. Hofmann
9. Pedrosa
10. Capirossi
11. Rossi
12. Barros
13. Hayden
14. Roberts
15. Nakano
16. Checa
17. Guintoli
18. Tamada