Sete Gibernau held on in the final moments of the Valencia GP qualifying session to claim the pole position from his Telefonica Movistar Honda teammate, Marco Melandri. Gibernau's time of 1:31.874 was a quarter of a second faster than Melandri.
The Spaniard now has an opportunity to close what has surely been a disappointing season -- four second places and seventh in the championship, after two runner-up seasons -- on a positive note in his home country.
"In my view, there have been a lot of positive aspects (to the season)," Gibernau explained. "We have been fastest in qualifying, spent most laps leading the races and due to bad luck and the occasional mistakes, we have not been able to make the most of this hard work at every Grand Prix. I hope to do it here, at home, in the final race of the year. I want to fight for the podium and the victory if it is possible, and finish with my best result of the season."
Melandri had a chance to snatch the pole from his teammates in the dying moments of the qualifying session, but could not find the grip on his last flying lap to take the pole.
"I am happy with the result of the qualifying," he summarized. "To start from second is very good, although I am a bit annoyed because I made a small mistake on the last qualifying tyre and when I changed to a new one the bike was sliding around and I lost time."
Nicky Hayden took third, a tenth behind Melandri but unable to make a real impression on the leading duo, to make it an all-Honda front row: "After the first qualifiers I tried a bit too hard with the second set and the time just didn't come so I was real happy to end up on the front row, especially as our pace hasn't been that hot so far this weekend."
In fourth place was Carlos Checa, the top Ducati driver, as Loris Capirossi was still in much pain on his return to MotoGP. Checa, who was sitting on provisional pole for much of the session, ran off course in the high-speed turn 13, and eventually took fourth at 1:32.374, while Capirossi still managed seventh fastest.
"It was Saint Carlos's day yesterday, so I think he was close to me today, because you normally crash when that kind of thing happens," Checa said, smiling through the pain. "I was flying like a bird, my hands the only part of me still holding onto the bike. I hit my 'jewels' really hard and went white like a candle! The second row is fine, it's a very long race, I just want to get away from the start in the top five."
Capirossi was still clearly suffering from the chest injuries he suffered in his massive crash at the Australian GP on Phillip Island three weeks ago, but a seventh place on his second day back astride a MotoGP bike was certainly respectable.
"I'm pretty satisfied," the Italian summed up his day. "I'm here and I'm not too slow. The race will be tough because my physical condition means that I'm making a few mistakes. Also, it's 30 laps around a narrow and twisty circuit that doesn't give you any room for a breather. I'm still trying to train my body for a different kind of effort compared to my gym training before this race."
The drama surrounded world champion Valentino Rossi, who lost traction on the front wheel of his Yamaha M1 in a fast chicane, sliding off into a gravel trap.
"When I crashed I was pushing hard with the qualifying tyre and honestly I felt confident that I could do a good time," Rossi explained. "I was maybe a little too aggressive and when I touched the brake I just lost the front and went down. I was going fast and I have some small bruises on my elbow and on my leg, but I will be fine tomorrow for the race -- I was lucky!"
The bike was not severely damaged but needed cleanup, so Rossi took to the track on his spare bike, riding furiously but to no avail. The Italian finished the session in a lowly 15th position.
"The grid position is not so good, my worst for a very long time," Rossi continued. "The main problem is that it's hard to overtake at this circuit. A lot will depend on how many riders I can pass at the start and in the first lap."