MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 2 - Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso stepped up to fill the void left by his injured teammate Dani Pedrosa to take his first ever MotoGP pole, and only second front row start, on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.Dovizioso was strong throughout the session in his new role as the standard-bearer for the Repsol Honda team after teammate Dani Pedrosa broke his left collarbone into three pieces in a Friday afternoon crash. Pedrosa returned to Spain last night and was expected to arrive this afternoon, with surgery scheduld immediately. After getting the collarbone plated, the Spaniard is certain to miss Malaysia, next week, with no decision yet on his return for Phillip Island in two weeks' time.In his absence, Dovizioso filled the breach. Getting quicker as the session progressed, the Italian took over the top for the second time with just under 13 minutes to run. Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner then took it from Dovi about seven minutes later, but Dovi wasn't done. With just over six minutes remaining in the one hour session Dovizioso clocked a lap of 1:47.001 mins., a gap of .104 secs. to then second fastest Stoner."I'm so happy and surprised about this practice," Dovizioso said after his first pole. "We start very well from yesterday, but I thought I can't go under '47, but we work really hard and so happy about the bike. We improve a lot, also with the electronic system we improve the anti-wheelie. I'm so happy about the bike. The power is so strong. So I think we have a really good pace for the race, because normally my style is to don't go too fast in the practice, so I think we can make a good race."Even though Dovi had the pole, the session wasn't over. After time had expired, Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi lapped within .054 secs. of Dovizioso to finish second. It was his first front row start since he was on the pole in Le Mans on May 22. And it also knocked teammate Jorge Lorenzo back to the third row, the first time the world champion-elect had been off the front row this year. His last start from row two was at Phillip Island last year."Yes, is first a technical difference, because we improve a lot the setting of our bike," Rossi said. "And the new engine from Yamaha push more, so we are also faster on the straight. And also here we have a harder tire compared to Aragon, because for me in Aragon also the hard was too soft, so I was a little bit in trouble."But about the shoulder, I expect to suffer a lot more, because here have a lot of hard braking. But also from yesterday afternoon I feel quite good. When I brake from straight I don't have a lot of pain, so I can push."And I'm very happy to be back on the front row, because it was from Le Mans before the crash of Mugello that I cannot be here and will be also very important for the race of tomorrow. We hope to have a good weather. We will see what's happened."What  happened to Stoner was that he struggled for much of the hour before finding a setting that worked late in the session. The settings that he'd used to race to victory in Aragon two weeks ago didn't work and the team had to make changes. A late change to put more weight on the back of the Desmosedici transformed the bike and he was able to put in his best times."Definitely, we started out with something very similar to Aragon and we're still using the general geometry, but we had to drop the bike quite a bit because we're having a lot of problems under braking and on the exit of the corners, wheelying too much," Stoner said. "So we dropped the bike, tried to make it a little more stable in as many places as we could. And the more stable we got it under braking, the better turning and everything like that."Unfortunately it kept losing grip. So no matter we did, I was getting more confident on the track and riding harder, and we just kept getting slower and slower and we couldn't really understand it that much. We knew we were in a bad situation with grip, but not that bad. So we just decided to go back somewhere in the middle. Try and get a bit more weight over the rear and try and get it pushing a little bit more, but had to put up with the wheelying a little bit more. And immediately we found an improvement, the bike started to feel a lot better and the lap times started to tumble. So from there we put a soft tire on and managed to pull ourselves a little bit way up the grid and away from the clutches of the third row, so we're happy about that."Lorenzo, who only needs 20 points between now and the end of the race in Malaysia to clinch the title, led an all-Yamaha row two. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates Colin Edwards and Ben Spies were fifth and sixth, respectively. Fifth equaled Edwards' best of the season from Mugello.LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet had been among the leaders much of the session. But as he was going for one final fast lap he ran off the track and had to settle for seventh. He's joined on the third row by San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki.Bautista's teammate, Loris Capirossi, is on the row four pole just in front of Nicky Hayden. Ducati Marlboro's Hayden spent much of the session struggling and only briefly made a serious run for the front half of the grid. Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) is the final rider on the fourth row.MotoGP Qualifying:

1. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:47.001

2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:47.055

3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:47.464

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:47.295

5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:47.464

6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:47.648

7. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:47.752

8. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:47.914

9. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:48.002

10. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:48.068

11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:48.182

MotoGP Headlines

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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