FIAT Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi will start tomorrows Japanese Grand Prix on the front row after qualifying in 2nd place, just behind Andrea Dovizioso. The 2nd place start represents Rossi’s first front row start since Le Mans, the race before his accident at Mugello, in which he broke his leg. After topping the time sheets after Friday practice, the Italian placed 3rd in FP3 so was determined to get a good result in qualifying. And he used the engine upgrades to good effect, constantly challenging the top of the order and finishing just 0.054s off pole position.
“It is a good feeling to be back on the front row after so long, the last time was at Le Mans, before the Mugello crash!” said an upbeat Rossi after qualifying. “We have improved in every area here, firstly we have made a big step with our setting, then we have the new engine from Yamaha which is enabling us to push more and be faster on the straights, plus we also have slightly harder Bridgestone tyres here than in Aragon and they are working better for me.”
“As I said yesterday I expected to suffer more with the shoulder but I am feeling quite good and when I brake in a straight line here I don’t have too much pain. I am so happy about all of this. This front row is going to be very important for tomorrow, we really hope for good weather and let’s see what we can do.”
Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was left disappointed after missing out on the front row for the first time this season. After using the new engine for the first time today, it looked as though Lorenzo could challenge for pole. And he did, before being knocked to 3rd by Stoner, and then a quick lap from Rossi relegated him to 4th.
“I am a little disappointed because this wasn’t the result we were expecting.” said Jorge. “I would have really liked to be on the front row here in Japan, Yamaha’s home, after signing with them for two more years this morning. However it’s only qualifying and the most important thing is that we’re ready for the race, we have a good pace and we only have one or two more small things still to work on”
“This afternoon I tried the new engine for the first time and it felt good in the high gears. This is the first time for me this season on the second row, but I am still close to the front and I will try to make the best start I can. The forecast for tomorrow isn’t the best so we have to be prepared for rain…let’s hope not though!”