Casey Stoner pipped teammate Dani Pedrosa to pole position at Estoril as Repsol Honda turned the tables on Jorge Lorenzo after his two-race pole streak to start the 2012 season.
The session was marred by an unfortunate accident involving Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards at turn four 12 minutes from time. The Aspar rider was on a flying lap when he lost the front of his ART machine at turn four, sliding into Edwards who was letting him through on the inside. The American was stretchered away and although he qualified 18th, looks unlikely to start tomorrow.
Lorenzo had held provisional pole prior to that moment ahead of Stoner and Pedrosa with less than a tenth of a second covering the three protagonists. Stoner was the first to show his hand when the session resumed, edging in front of Lorenzo by three hundredths, despite having four tenths in hand at the halfway point in the lap.
That would come back to bite him as Cal Crutchlow leaped to the top of the order with a stunning final sector. Stoner's initial response was six hundredths slower but the next attempt put him back on top, a tenth ahead of the Briton. Pedrosa followed him over the line to take second, just 0.013s away from stealing pole position.
The expected fightback from Lorenzo didn't materialise and the championship leader looked visibly angry with fourth, especially given his supreme record at Estoril. The Spaniard will have the satellite Yamaha of Crutchlow ahead of him while teammate Ben Spies will start alongside in fifth. The American had an immensely frustrating session with three separate laps ruined by traffic.
Alvaro Bautista rounded out the second row on the Gresini Honda, pushing Andrea Dovizioso down to seventh while Hector Barbera took the honour of top Ducati after using Jorge Lorenzo's slipstream to great effect. The Pramac rider will line up in eight, just ahead of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden on the factory GP12s.
Stefan Bradl is next up in eleventh while Aleix Espargaro took advantage of his teammate's misfortune to take twelfth, quickest of the CRT riders. James Ellison will start nineteenth with Ivan Silva at the back but the Spaniard certainly produced the most spectacular moment of the qualifying hour with a miraculous safe when his Avintia BQR threatened to throw him to the floor.