Andrea Dovizioso claimed his first MotoGP front row at the 44th attempt in Laguna Seca to give his hopes of a fifth podium finish of the season a major boost.
The Repsol Honda rider logged a best time of 1.21.617 to top a fierce battle for the final place on the front row as Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner were untouchable at the front.
The Italian was 0.639s behind Lorenzo’s Fiat Yamaha but less than a tenth clear of compatriot Valentino Rossi in sixth position and he said: "This is the first time I had the possibility to be fast on this track and from the first session I was fast and we improved again this morning, especially in T4.
"For the final qualifying lap I pushed at 100 per cent and did my best final sector time - which gave me my fastest lap time and a place on the front row. But it is still not enough although I have a good pace.
"The pace of Jorge and Casey is faster but I am not too far away. I’m very happy about this session because this is my first front row of the season and qualifying was an area that we had to improve.”
Dovizioso said at least starting in the top three would help him challenge at the front from the start of the 32-lap race.
His previous best qualifying of the season was fourth at Silverstone and the Sachsenring and he added:
“It is so important to be fast at the beginning because if you don't stay with the fastest riders then you have to push too much and you can't keep the pace. So it is important to start at the front.
"The race at 32 laps is really long but I have really good pace, but sure we need to find some speed for tomorrow. It is not so easy to understand the pace from qualifying. In some tracks you make the same pace in the race, so if I am in the same position they are faster. But Dani has a good pace and he is always a question mark, so we need to wait for the race."