Jorge Lorenzo claimed pole position for the MotoGP season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, denying Casey Stoner a fourth straight Losail pole.
It was reigning champion Stoner who led the way for Honda for most of the hour, as he both topped the part of the session devoted to practice, then improved to a 1m55.149s on his first concerted pole shot with 11 minutes left.
That was beaten by Lorenzo's 1m54.993s for Yamaha just afterwards, and although four-time Qatar winner Stoner fought back with a 1m54.855s, it put him on top for less than a minute before the Yamaha lapped 0.221 seconds quicker. Neither man could get any more pace out of their last sets of soft tyres, so Lorenzo's 19th MotoGP pole was secured.
Cal Crutchlow turned his practice promise into a career-best MotoGP starting position and first front row grid slot in third place for Tech 3 Yamaha, three places ahead of team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
The second works Yamaha of Ben Spies was left fourth on the grid after crashing with four minutes to go. It looked like the American might regain balance and stay upright, but eventually the bike got away from him.
Nicky Hayden grabbed fifth for Ducati in the closing seconds, but his team-mate Valentino Rossi was the slowest of the prototype riders in a lowly 12th place.
It was a quiet session for Dani Pedrosa (Honda) as well. The Spaniard will line up seventh, ahead of Hector Barbera's Pramac Ducati, top rookie Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda and late crasher Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati).
Spies and Abraham aside, the session saw five other crashes - all among CRT runners. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda), Ivan Silva (Avintia), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Randy de Puniet (Aspar) and James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) were all uninjured in their tumbles, unlike their bikes.
Forward Racing's Colin Edwards was the fastest CRT rider, less than a second off his sometime Yamaha team-mate Rossi's pace on the works MotoGP Ducati.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m54.634s
2. Casey Stoner Honda 1m54.855s + 0.221s
3. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m55.022s + 0.388s
4. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m55.512s + 0.878s
5. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m55.637s + 1.003s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Tech 3 Yamaha 1m55.858s + 1.224s
7. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m55.905s + 1.271s
8. Hector Barbera Pramac Ducati 1m55.983s + 1.349s
9. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 1m56.063s + 1.429s
10. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 1m56.198s + 1.564s
11. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 1m56.521s + 1.887s
12. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m56.813s + 2.179s
13. Colin Edwards Forward Suter-BMW 1m57.644s + 3.010s
14. Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 1m58.266s + 3.632s
15. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia 1m58.520s + 3.886s
16. Yonny Hernandez Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m58.795s + 4.161s
17. Michele Pirro Gresini FTR-Honda 1m59.085s + 4.451s
18. Mattia Pasini Speed Master Aprilia 1m59.195s + 4.561s
19. Danilo Petrucci Ioda-Aprilia 1m59.664s + 5.030s
20. Ivan Silva Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 2m00.493s + 5.859s
21. James Ellison Paul Bird Aprilia 2m00.757s + 6.123s