Doha, Qatar: Spain's Maverick Vinales snatched pole position at a crash-marred VisitQatar MotoGP, pushing Andrea Dovizioso and world champion Marc Marquez into second and third place.
Vinales powered his Yamaha home in a time of 1min 53.546sec, to finish just ahead Dovizioso, who was second in a time of 1min 53.744sec, with Marquez edged into third with a time of 1min 53.745sec.
"I think we were pretty good this weekend," said Vinales. "The way I am riding is the best Maverick in these three seasons. Still we have to improve, we are slow in the last corner and we have two opponents who make the best top-speed. But I’m pretty sure we can do good tomorrow."
But the day's main talking point was the number of crashes on a windy and relatively cold evening in Doha.
Among those to fall during practice and qualification was Marquez, and his Honda teammate Jorge Lorenzo, whose crash was bad enough for him not be able to continue after a heavy fall.
In visible pain, Lorenzo was taken for medical treatment and did not get back on his Honda after crashing on his first fast lap.
Considered to be one of the main challengers to Marquez, Lorenzo will start Sunday's race in 15th position.
Spaniard Alex Rins, Frenchman Johann Zarco and Jack Miller were among the other fallers, though the Australian recovered to post a time of 1min 53.809sec, and will start fourth on Sunday's grid.
Ducati rider Dovizioso, who won a dramatic race in Doha last year, said he was "really happy" with his time.
The number of crashes is likely to bring fresh focus on Sunday's start time of 8pm.
The riders had urged race officials to bring it forward by an hour, concerned by the conditions, but that request was refused.
Valentino Rossi, who finished on the podium last year in Doha, and a teammate of Vinales, will start in fourteenth position this year.
Among those watching qualification on Saturday was Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.