Sepang - Spain's Jorge Lorenzo, riding a Yamaha, took pole position in the Malaysian MotoGP on Saturday, timing 2minutes 1.537seconds.
The 23-year-old championship leader looks set to depose team-mate Valentino Rossi as MotoGP champion this weekend.
Lorenzo needs only a ninth-place finish Sunday to clinch the title with three rounds still to go after compatriot and title rival Dani Pedrosa (Honda) announced he would miss the race at the Sepang circuit due to a shoulder injury.
"Well I really wanted to fight for pole position. This moment is very important in my career. I pushed the bike to the maximum," he said.
It is Lorenzo's sixth pole position of the season. He finished ahead of US rider Nicky Hayden (Ducati), Andrea Dovizioso of Italy on a Honda and US Yamaha rider Ben Spies.
Australian Casey Stoner, eying a third straight win for Ducati on Sunday, could only manage fifth position while Rossi was sixth, 0.493 seconds behind Lorenzo.
Stoner scored back-to-back victories at Aragon and Motegi.
Hayden, seventh in the overall standings, said the heat at the Sepang track was a challenge to all the riders.
"We will try to get good results tomorrow. It is not easy in the heat," he said. Hayden has yet to grab a podium finish in Sepang. He finished fifth here last year.
Colin Edwards (Yamaha) finished seventh while Spaniard Alvaro Bautista on a Suzuki was eighth. Frenchman Randy de Puniet was thirteenth.