They traded places throughout a thrilling qualifying session for the season starting Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar at flood-light bathed Losail circuit, before 2010 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo finally seized pole position on the new Yamaha, with his benchmark qualifying lap of 1:54.634--over reigning Repsol Honda titleholder Casey Stoner, who lost top spot by 0.221 seconds at 1:54.855 as the new 1,000-cc era begins.
It was a classic battle of the titans--Honda versus Yamaha--as most of the 21 riders used the harder rear Bridgestone tire option until 20 minutes remained.
It was then that all switched to the softer, asymmetric rear in pursuit of a quick lap time.
Cal Crutchlow continued to impress on the Tech 3 Yamaha taking third place at 1:55.022 to place two Yamaha riders on the front row.
Lorenzo was, of course, "really happy with tonight's result. I had to push more than 100 percent to make pole position but I pushed to the limit and managed to make a perfect lap. We still have to improve the power on the straight and our maximum speed but in the rest of the track the bike is working really well."
As expected, Stoner was less than pleased with his result. "It should have been a lot better, especially on the soft tire which we hadn't used all weekend. Last night," he said, "we were happy with what we had improved and with the setup in general. Then tonight we tried to improve and we just made it worse and worse."
Crutchlow can "go into the race with a lot more confidence," he said. "It has felt like a long time coming to get a result like this but this is a fantastic reared for all the effort my crew put in over the winter. They worked with me a lot to help me learn how to ride in MotoGP and tonight is a great pay-off."
Ben Spies recovered from his Friday maladies to take the inside of the second row on the second Yamaha factory motorcycle despite falling with five minutes remaining and causing the qualifying session's premature end, with fellow American Nicky Hayden fifth on the factory Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso sixth for Tech 3 Yamaha.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) and Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda make up the third row, while row four is comprised of Karel Abraham's Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati, Alvaro Bautista's San Carlo Honda Gresini and a disappointed Valentino Rossi on the second Ducati.
American Colin Edwards is the first of the CRT qualifiers, bringing the Suter from NGM Mobile Forward Racing into 13th place, a pinch more than three seconds behind Lorenzo's lap time. The margin from first to 21st is just over six seconds with James Ellison the final qualifier on the Paul Bird Motorsport ART.
The MotoGP motorcycles take to the Losail track at 6PM local time on Sunday for a 20-minute warmup session; the race starts at 10PM local time.