Rossi takes pole for Japanese MotoGP
Valentino Rossi feels fierce rivals Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo currently have an edge on race pace as the Movistar Yamaha rider prepares for his 64th Grand Prix pole start in the Japanese MotoGP.
Rossi set the fastest time in Q2 on his final lap to head up the front row from Repsol Honda rider Marquez by 0.180 seconds, with Lorenzo completing the front row.
However, the nine-time world champion says he needs to improve his overall pace slightly to be in with a chance of taking victory at Motegi.
“To make the pole position is always a special feeling. This time also more because we struggle all the time during the practice. Yesterday we were a bit in trouble but especially this morning we expected to improve, but it was not enough and I was quite far,” Rossi said.
“But we worked well with the team and we improved a lot the balance of the bike for FP4. In fact in the last practice I was already faster and competitive, so I was more positive for the qualifying and I think that I can fight for the front row – also because in the last year always in Motegi I have a good qualifying.
“In FP4 I improved the pace a lot and this is important for tomorrow. Looking at it on paper, also Dovizioso and Crutchlow are very strong but I think that me, Marquez and Lorenzo are the strongest,” added the Italian.
“We are quite close but it looks like Jorge and Marc are a little bit faster than me, but I am close. We need to work tonight and try to fix the details and hope for good weather tomorrow with more temperature.”
Rossi, meanwhile, is concerned over his fitness. The 37-year-old is feeling under the weather with a cold in Japan, which he feels could prove problematic in the closing stages of the race.
“I'm not at 100 per-cent because when I push a lot of laps I don't feel at the maximum – I'm quite sick and it's difficult to breathe, so this is a worry for the race because the race here is very long and very demanding,” he said. “You have to brake hard but I hope that tomorrow I can make another step and try to fight for the victory.”
Rossi, who is 52 points behind Marquez with four races including the Japanese round remaining, expects a close battle on the opening laps involving a number of riders, with Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Suzuki duo Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales also displaying strong pace at the Twin Ring circuit.
“As always the first three or four laps of the MotoGP race are always crucial so you have to try and stay in front from the beginning and try and push at the maximum from the first corner,” Rossi said.