The reigning MotoGP champion Casey Stoner took his third pole position in a row with a stunning late lap at Assen ahead of today's race.
The 22-year-old Australian led for the majority of the session until a late surge from the five-time champion Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa knocked him off top spot. But the resurgent Stoner found another quick lap with time running out to continue his recent return to form.
He said: "We really didn't feel like we had enough competitiveness from my first set of tyres to take pole and then I messed up the second set with a mistake.
"So I'm very surprised to be on pole but delighted and to get three in a row is amazing. There was a lot of pressure on and I saw Valentino on pole and had given it up but I managed to pull it out. But where you start on the grid is irrelevant. Vale [Rossi] was 11th on the grid last year and he still won so I'm not taking anything for granted.
"Race pace on race tyres we're much happier with and we're pretty confident for the race."
Stoner's lap of 1min 35.520sec saw him take pole from the Repsol Honda of Pedrosa with Rossi third. British hope James Toseland was down in 13th spot on his Tech 3 Yamaha.
Rossi is 11 points ahead of Pedrosa and 45 ahead of Stoner at the top of the standings but knows the Ducati of Stoner has rediscovered the speed that saw him dominate last season.
He said: "I hope there is a real battle for the win but to fight for the win with Casey is going to be tough."
In the 125cc race, British teenager Bradley Smith will start second behind Simone Corsi with 15-year-old Scott Redding, winner at Donington, in sixth place.
Elsewhere, the world Superbike leader Troy Bayliss was again the man to beat as he took provisional pole position for tomorrow's races at Misano.
Bayliss has seen his lead at the top of the standings cut in recent weeks but steered his Xerox Ducati round in a best lap of 1min 36.862sec to head the field ahead of Jakub Smrz.
The veteran Australian has won six of the last eight Superbike races he has entered at Misano and was again in imperious form.
Smrz's second saw him lead Troy Corser, Max Biaggi and Noriyuki Haga in the top five, with Bayliss' nearest challenger in the standings, Carlos Checa, way off the pace. The Spanish rider could only manage the 15th best time and will need to improve in today's final qualifying session.