Casey Stoner appears headed for his fifth consecutive Australian MotoGP title after dominating final qualifying at Phillip Island on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Australian was a class above his opponents, piloting his Honda around the seaside course in one minute 29.975 seconds, almost half a second ahead of Jorge Lorenzo on a Yamaha.
Italian Marco Simoncelli rounded out the front row of the grid on his Honda, 0.624sec behind Stoner.
Stoner can virtually wrap up his second 2011 MotoGP championship if he wins on Sunday and can claim the title if defending champion Lorenzo fails to finish the race.
He posted the only sub one minute 30 qualifying lap on the circuit, situated 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Melbourne.
Stoner’s lap was three tenths of a second quicker than the pole position he won last year while on a Ducati.
The Australian criticised the state of the track on Friday and said he had had to adjust his riding style to suit the conditions.
“I’m pretty happy to be riding here, although I struggled a little bit on Friday with the track and the conditions the way they were, which were so different to last year,” Stoner said.
“It sort of caught me unawares and the bumps sort of put us on the back foot.
“We were still fast enough but we didn’t feel completely comfortable — the bike didn’t feel like it was suiting us but today we managed to get that bike really comfortable for us.
“Step by step we just continued to get faster and this afternoon we’ve done two race distances basically on hard tyres and everything feels good,” he said.
“The soft tyres will be quite a jump faster so we’ll see what the weather holds for tomorrow and how everything is but we couldn’t ask for much more for this weekend.”
Lorenzo, who trails Stoner by 40 points in the championship with two races remaining, conceded he had a daunting task ahead of him.
“It’s very difficult for tomorrow because he is really fast on his home track and he seems to have the bike in the best way,” Lorenzo said.
“I’m trying to be competitive and fast but it’s difficult and the most probability is for me to be second tomorrow, but anything can happen in the race.”
San Marino’s Alex De Angelis claimed pole in the Moto2 category in 1:34.574 on his Motobi, ahead of Frenchman Mike Di Meglio on a Tech 3 (1:34.662) and Japan’s Yuki Takahashi on a Moriwaki (1:34.689).
In the 125cc class, France’s Johann Zarco on a Derbi headed German duo Sandro Cortese and Jonas Folger both on Aprilias.
Zarco claimed pole in 1:39.207, three tenths of a second in front of Cortese, with Folger a further tenth of a second back.