Pedrosa headed a tight qualifying field [AFP]

Spaniard Dani Pedrosa delighted the home crowd at the Spanish MotoGP in Jerez by taking pole position with compatriot Jorge Lorenzo hot on his heels in second place.

Pedrosa has been having technical problems with his Honda but was fastest with a lap of one minute 39.202.

The six quickest riders were separated by less than half a second in a thrilling qualifying session, with Lorenzo on a Yamaha and Australian Casey Stoner on a Ducati completing the front row of the grid.

"It's always nice to get pole position and especially here because it is my home race and the support from the fans is amazing," Pedrosa said on Sunday.

It was his 14th MotoGP pole but the 24-year-old said there was still a lot of work to do on his bike ahead of Sunday's race.

"I really didn't expect this pole to be honest," said Pedrosa.

"The new frame is delivering some improvements but we're not all the way there yet and we must continue to work on the stability."

World champion Valentino Rossi, who has been struggling with a bruised shoulder picked up in a motocross accident earlier in the month, headed the second row along with American Nicky Hayden and Frenchman Randy de Puniet.

Hayden crash

Stoner's Ducati teammate Hayden did well to come back after a crash during practice earlier in the day.

Rossi, who won at Jerez last year and in the season-opener in Qatar, said: "Of course it would be better to be on the front row but fourth is okay and I'm very happy about how much we have improved since this morning.

"My shoulder feels a lot better today. I am still lacking a bit of strength but the pain is okay. I am hoping for a great race tomorrow for all the fans."

The second race of the season, in Japan, was postponed due to the travel chaos caused by the Icelandic volcano.

Championship leader Shoya Tomizawa of Japan logged the first pole of his career in Moto2 ahead of Spaniards Julian Simon and Toni Elias and Japan's Yuki Takahashi.

In the 125cc category, Marc Marquez led an all-Spanish front row ahead of Pol Espargaro, Efren Vazquez and Esteve Rabat, setting a new pole record at the track of one minute 46.829.

Source: Reuters