(CNN) -- Australian Casey Stoner continued to hold the upper hand over rival Valentino Rossi after taking pole position for the opening round of the MotoGP race in Qatar.
Stoner looks the man to beat in the opening MotoGP race of the season in Qatar.
Stoner had been quicker than Rossi during pre-season and the Ducati Marlboro rider will start the floodlit race at the Losail circuit from the front row of the grid.
He will be joined on the front row by Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi who was second quickest to the man he took the MotoGP title from last season.
Rossi had gone into the opening race weekend of the season admitting he needed to find new motivation after winning the title for the first time in three years when he triumphed in 2008.
Stoner had his own point to prove following wrist surgery in the off-season but showed with his fastest lap of one minute 55.286 seconds at Losail that he was back on top.
Rossi was second quickest with a time of 1:55.759, finishing just ahead of team-mate Jorge Lorenzo. Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso was next on the timesheets, from Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Colin Edwards.
Rookie Mika Kallio was a fine 10th for Pramac Ducati, one place ahead of Marco Melandri who was making his debut for the new Hayate team which took over after Kawasaki decided to pull out of MotoGP.
Dani Pedrosa did well to set the 14th best time as he is still recovering from surgery but there was disappointment for former champion Nicky Hayden.
Hayden is combining his 100th grand prix with his debut for Ducati Marlboro but finished outside the top 15 in qualifying, well off the pace of team-mate Stoner who succeeded him as world champion in 2007.