MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo started the new season where he left off with pole position for Yamaha under the Qatar floodlights on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who was also on pole for last year’s acrimonious title-deciding season-ender in Valencia, lapped the Losail circuit with a fastest time of 1min 54.543sec.
Honda’s twice world champion Marc Marquez will line up next to him on Sunday with Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, who put in a storming last lap, in third place on an all-Spanish front row.
“I thought I had the pole,” said Marquez after a session that offered far more excitement than Formula One’s farcical new qualifying format that made a disappointing debut in Australia earlier in the day.
“But I’m happy to be on the front row because two weeks ago (in testing) we were really far from Jorge.”
The second row was all Italian, with Lorenzo’s nine-times champion team mate Valentino Rossi — who ended last year feuding with Marquez — fifth after earlier announcing a two-year contract extension.
Andrea Iannone qualified fourth for Ducati, with team mate Andrea Dovizioso sixth.