Valentino Rossi made a welcome return to the front row of the grid for the first time this year in Portugal this afternoon, qualifying third aboard his Fiat Yamaha M1.
It was the first time the 29-year-old has qualified on the front row since making the
switch to Bridgestone tyres and it puts him in a good position from which to attempt a repeat of his victory here five months ago.
The weather was considerably kinder today and the Estoril circuit was not only dry all day but considerably less windswept than yesterday. Times tumbled in this morning's free practice and Rossi continued to improve his race setting, finishing the morning's work in fourth position. This afternoon he continued in the same fashion, topping the time sheets for the first half of the session.
In the later battle for qualifying tyres Rossi set his best time of 1'36.199 with ten minutes still on the clock and, with his young team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on pole it looked like being a Fiat Yamaha one-two before the party was spoiled by Dani Pedrosa pipping Rossi to second in the closing minutes.
Yamaha Tech 3 riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland made it four Yamaha riders in the top six with tomorrow's 28-lap race shaping up to be an exciting affair with more unsettled weather conditions looming.
Valentino Rossi :
I'm really happy! It's very important to be on the first row here and now we can think about trying to win tomorrow. We've made some big steps forward with Bridgestone and considering that every time we use the qualifying tyre it's still a bit like a test, it's a great achievement to be here. Today my bike and tyres worked very well and I felt confident and strong.
We have a good setting and I can ride how I want to, which is great fun as well! Now I really hope that we can have a good race tomorrow. The weather is a worry and we will have to wait until last thing to make our final tyre choice, but we have some good ideas. Lorenzo and Pedrosa are looking very strong but I think we are not so far and we have a chance to be there tomorrow. There is a great atmosphere in our box and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow's challenge.
Davide Brivio :
We've had four very good practice sessions over the last two days and now to start on the front row is a big achievement from everyone. We have a good race pace as well and so it seems that everything is coming together for us. Valentino has a good feeling from his bike and tyres and we're really looking forward to the race now. It's going to be difficult as usual but we will hope to stay at the front and fight for the victory.