In front of home fans at Misano
Valentino Rossi returned to the front row of the MotoGP grid today for the first time in three races, qualifying in second position for tomorrow's San Marino Grand Prix at Misano.
The local favourite missed out on pole by 0.176 seconds
to Casey Stoner, with Nicky Hayden taking the third spot. Fiat Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards meanwhile did not enjoy such a successful session and qualified ninth, on the outside of row three.
After the atrocious weather yesterday caused the afternoon practice sessions to be cancelled, an extra hour was added to this morning's free practice to give the riders as much time as possible to get the hang of the new circuit. Yesterday's storms seemed to have run their course and the ensuing calm brought out an army of yellow-clad Rossi fans, over 1000 of which had made the pilgrimage on foot in the early hours of this morning from nearby Tavullia, where Rossi grew up. After two hours of hard work on tyres and set-up Rossi was second behind Stoner, with Edwards in fifth.
This afternoon's qualifying session was played out under perfect sunshine with temperatures sitting comfortably in the low twenties. With ten minutes to go Rossi's first attempt with a qualifying tyre moved him momentarily to the top of the time sheets, before he was deposed by Stoner just seconds later.
Edwards also moved into the top flight on his first run before he was nudged down the order as more riders put in fast laps. The last two minutes of the session saw a flurry of quick times and Rossi's second flying lap shot him into pole, although Edwards was unable to better his position.
Unfortunately for Rossi, Stoner eventually nudged him into second, promising a mouth-watering head-to-head between the pair when the lights go out for tomorrow's 28-lap race.
"The atmosphere today was unbelievable, there are so many fans and so much yellow around the circuit; it was really important for me to make a good result like this. I rode at the maximum today and I'm very happy with the result. It's been a long time without a front-row start, since Donington, and it's a big relief to be back here again. I like this track a lot so far, it's technical and has some really good parts, it's not too tight and it's possible to have fun. There are some bumps but it's not disastrous and it seems to suit our bike well. Our Michelin tyres are working well here and I can ride the bike how I want to again. It was also very good with the qualifying tyre. Casey is very fast once again and we know that it's going to be very hard tomorrow, but starting from the front is going to make things much easier and now I am looking forward to a fun race."
"This morning wasn't too bad. We made some changes to the bike and got it going pretty well this morning; it wasn't easy but we were going reasonably well and I was feeling pretty happy. We planned this afternoon to make a few tweaks to suit the track as it warmed up and at the beginning we stuck in a hard race tyre and went from there. Unfortunately though things didn't go exactly to plan; the bike felt quite different and I felt like I couldn't really get out of my own way! So then we changed back towards this morning's setting and that felt a lot better. With the qualifying tyre I dropped nearly a second but unfortunately it really wasn't enough today and I felt like I had some side-grip issues that meant I was lacking a bit of confidence to get in deep. If I had just listened to my wife today - braked a little deeper and got on the gas a little earlier - then I guess I would have found the missing three tenths!"
"It's great that Valentino is back on the front row again, especially at this track where we expect it will be quite hard to pass. It's very important for him that he's starting at the front. He did a great job with his team and worked very well during the limited dry track time we have had, and now we will just work to make the final adjustments to make sure he is in the best shape possible for tomorrow's race. Colin had good potential today but unfortunately it didn't work out and he has to start from the third row. It's a pity because there aren't many places to pass here so it could be a tough race for him. Anyway we will try to put the best package together for him so he can try to make up the ground tomorrow. We're looking forward to an exciting race!"