The Repsol Honda rider was on form from the start of the afternoon session, heading the times on race tyres at the beginning of hour then closing to within 0.280secs of the Ducati star on qualifying tyres.

"This weekend, even though we haven't put in the one quick lap in every session, we've quietly been reasonably close to the pace and perhaps a bit better than it looked on paper," began Nicky. "This afternoon the warmer temperature helped us, the tyres worked better and straight away we were able to get down into those 1m 58s laps where we need to be.

"I quite enjoyed my qualifying laps," revealed the American, who qualified as the top Michelin rider. "My first run went pretty well and on my second one I hung it out a little bit further and was able to go a couple of tenths faster - it was fun. For the afternoon session we changed the bike geometry around which seemed to help us. We'll see what happens in the race tomorrow, but nonetheless that's my first front row of the season so I'll try to get a good start and turn it into a good result."

Joining Stoner and Hayden on the front row will be the second factory Honda of dani Pedrosa, who lapped just 0.015s slower than his team-mate.

"I'm happy to be on the front row of course and this gives us a good chance to get away at the front in the race," said the Spaniard. "The warmer conditions also helped our performance as expected this afternoon, though we must continue to work on our race settings tonight and tomorrow morning. A good start is going to be essential tomorrow and I hope that we can find a package that will let us fight with the front group and challenge for the win. It's going to be a tough race and I'm looking forward to it."

"Nicky and Dani did a very good job today to put both Repsol Hondas on the front row for the first time this year, so a big thanks to both of them," praised team manager Makoto Tanaka. "Nicky especially showed that his motivation is still very high even though his season has been quite difficult. This afternoon was hotter than yesterday and the ground temperature was up from 32 degrees to 39 degrees which I think may have favoured the Michelin tyres. We will check all the data we gathered from the machines today and the feedback from our riders to make the final set-up decisions in warm-up tomorrow morning. I think the situation could be like Sachsenring [where Pedrosa took victory] where the morning was cool and the afternoon much hotter. We'll be working hard towards another good result."