Jorge Lorenzo broke the Phillip Island lap record to claim pole for the Australian MotoGP as he fights to keep alive his World Championship defence.
The Yamaha racer, 26, dominated the session with a best lap of one minute 27.899 seconds - 0.221 seconds faster than fellow Spaniard Marc Marquez.
Marquez is 43 points ahead in the standings and will secure the title in his rookie season if he collects eight more points than Lorenzo.
Briton Cal Crutchlow will start sixth.
Tyre problems - which - mean that the MotoGP race will have a mandatory pit stop, for the first time in MotoGP history.
Bridgestone tyres say that they are unable to guarantee the safety of their rear slick tyres beyond 14 laps at a Phillip Island circuit which has been resurfaced since last year's race.
Each MotoGP rider will be required to enter the pits and change to his second machine with fresh tyres at the midway point of the 26-lap race, which has been reduced by a lap.
Lorenzo beat Casey Stoner's previous record of 1:28.665, set in 2008, but had to pit to remove a seagull that had lodged in his bike after a collision at the top of Lukey Heights before securing his 28th career MotoGP pole.
"We've done our best to be competitive," he said. "This lap [we did] is a lap you can only do with a PlayStation. Today we made it - we improved seven tenths [of a second] from our first ride here.
"It's impressive how much faster we can go with new tyres. We're very proud of pole, but our most important thing is tomorrow."
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha, 1:27.899
2. Marc Marquez (Spa) Repsol Honda +0.221 seconds
3. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha +0.748
4. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Gresini Honda +0.814
5. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda +0.849
6. Cal Crutchlow (GB) Yamaha Tech +0.910
7. Bradley Smith (GB) Yamaha Tech +1.042
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati +1.396
9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati +1.761
10. Andrea Iannone (Ita) Ducati +1.857