MOTEGI - Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo secured his sixth pole position of the MotoGP season with a record last-gasp spurt in qualifying for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
The Yamaha rider clocked a record lap of one minute, 44.969 seconds as the chequered flag fell at Motegi's Twin Ring circuit on Saturday, comfortably faster than main title rival Dani Pedrosa's Honda.
Fellow Spaniard Pedrosa had surged to the top of the timesheets with a 1:45.215 with four minutes remaining before Lorenzo's late burst of speed moved him closer to a second premier class world title.
Britain's Cal Crutchlow was third quickest in 1:45.257 with American Ben Spies, also on a Yamaha, fourth in 1:45.336.
Australian world champion Casey Stoner, returning after ankle surgery, was seventh quickest on his Honda in 1:45.745 having missed the last three races.
"I'm not feeling 100 per cent so I wanted to get a reasonable feeling with it before I start pushing," Stoner told reporters.
"At the moment the acceleration points are causing me most difficulty. There are many areas at this circuit where the bike wants to wheelie.
"You need to keep your body and weight over the front of the bike," added the Australian, who suffered a high-speed crash in practice at Indianapolis in August.
"Unfortunately my foot doesn't want to bend far enough to help me move forward so I'm having to pull myself forward which is giving me issues with my arms as they are working a lot harder than usual.
"We'll keep working tomorrow and see what we can do."
Pedrosa trimmed Lorenzo's lead at the top of the championship standings to 33 points with four races left by winning at Aragon two weeks ago.
Lorenzo, hot favourite to win his second MotoGP title following his maiden victory in 2010, has 290 points. Pedrosa has 257 with third-placed Stoner on 186. (Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)