Casey Stoner will start his final MotoGP race with the #1 plate from pole position, after edging out Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden during an exciting qualifying session at Valencia - the last to feature qualifying tyres for the foreseeable future.

Stoner's Ducati technicians worked well to correctly judge the difficult track conditions, with spots of rain falling at the mid-point to cause frenetic action in pit-lane.

Stoner worked with his team to quickly find a suitable dry setting for his Desmosedici before fitting three qualifying tyres - improving his lap time with each of them to finish just 0.053sec in front of Pedrosa.

Stoner's ninth pole of the season equals a record held by Valentino Rossi since 2003. Rossi will start just tenth on the grid, but it is the Honda riders that Ducati needs Stoner to beat on Sunday to secure second in the 2008 constructors' championship.

Many question marks remain ahead of the race - not least the weather and the state of Stoner's wrist. Any injury that requires a bone graft and two month recovery isn't to be sniffed at, but Stoner has already proven that he can win despite his fragmented left scaphoid bone - triumphing most recently at Philip Island - and doesn't think it will be a problem on Sunday.

"That was a really strange session because of the weather but the team did a good job to judge the conditions well and adjust the setting of the bike during the limited dry track time available," said Stoner, chasing his sixth victory of the season on Sunday.

"It seems this track isn't as demanding on my wrist as Sepang was because there aren't as many hard braking areas, although I went out without strapping today and that didn't turn out to be the best decision. We'll strap it up tomorrow but I don't think it will be a problem," he confirmed.

"It's important to be on the front row because it is so hard to pass at this circuit and it's also nice to take the final pole position of the season. Hopefully the weather stays dry - for us and for the incredible fans here," added the 2008 MotoGP runner-up.

Team-mate Marco Melandri, third fastest in the wet conditions this morning, ran into problems again this afternoon and his confidence took a further blow when he ran off track.

Melandri will start his final race for Ducati 18th and last.

"When the times were slower on the wet track this morning I managed to lap amongst the fastest riders without even pushing that hard, but when I did push the old problems returned," explained the Italian.

"I had hardly any feeling with the bike and made a lot of mistakes, including running straight at the final turn but thankfully I managed to slow the bike down before I hit the tyre wall," he continued. "The situation didn't improve after that and I didn't even get qualifiers on, so I'll be starting from the back tomorrow."



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