(CNN) -- Italy's Valentino Rossi gave his bid to seal a seventh Moto GP world title at the Malaysian Grand Prix a boost after qualifying for the race in pole position.
The defending champion set a name lap-record time of 2 minutes 00.518 seconds despite sweltering conditions on Saturday.
The time smashed Casey Stoner's 2007 lap record of 2 minutes 02.108 seconds.
The Yamaha rider celebrated his seventh pole of the season by pulling a wheelie as he drove into the pit lane at the Sepang circuit.
The 5.5-kilometer track that is situated south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, is a notoriously tought test for rider and machine alike with its combination of tight corners, long straights and tough high-speed bends.
The 30-year-old currently leads the world championship by 38 points, a position that means a top-four finish at Sepang would seal the title on Sunday.
Rossi's teammate Jorge Lorenzo qualified in second place, just 0.569sec behind -- a result that prompted Rossi to pay tribute to the hard work of his team.
"The team worked well, the bike performed well, hence I was able to go faster.
"Starting from pole is important since the (first) corner is far away," he added.
Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (Honda) was 0.736sec behind Rossi while Australian Stoner was fourth at 0.937sec.
Ducati rider Stoner, who finished ahead of Rossi in last weekend's Australian Grand Prix to take the win, is third in the world championship standings, with Pedrosa fourth on a Honda.