LUCO DI MUGELLO, ITALY: Motorcycling star Valentino Rossi snatched his first pole position in over a year-and-a-half with a blistering pace giving him more records at his home track ahead of the Italian MotoGP on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The Yamaha rider clocked a new best time of 1min 46.208sec around the Mugello track to put him ahead of two Spanish riders: Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo at 0.035sec, with Rossi’s Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales, who was 0:096 off the pace, completing the front row for Sunday’s race.
It will be the 55th pole position in MotoGP — 65 in all classes — for the former seven-time world MotoGP champion and first since the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2016.
Rossi also becomes the first rider to start from pole position seven times at Mugello.
“I’m very happy, it’s a surprise,” said the 39-year-old.
“Starting on pole here at Mugello is always special, beautiful,” continued Rossi, who won the Italian MotoGP race seven years in a row between 2002 and 2008, and has started on the front row 12 times.
“In the last free practice session we tried harder tires but I was in trouble, with the medium tyres it was better, the bike was good and when I saw the time of 1’46.2 I thought ‘It could be …’ It was very emotional.
“Tomorrow will be a bit harder, but for now I want to enjoy the moment.”
Rossi shaved 0.231 off the new lap record, which had been achieved earlier in the day by Spanish world champion Marc Marquez of Honda.
Championship leader Marquez will start in the second row from sixth on the grid with Italy’s Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) alongside Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) in fourth and fifth position.
“I’m very happy, finally a little bit of satisfaction,” said Lorenzo. “I have a good feeling, I am fast and steady.
“I want to give my best to win at least one race, if not more with them (Ducati), but this race will not change my future in Ducati.”
Vinales speed up to the front row after coming through the first qualifying round.
“In the morning I had tried a more aggressive bike and instead I lost speed. For the qualifying we fixed things and it went well,” said the Spaniard.
“We can do better and I’m sure we can have a good race.”
Italian Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, winner last year in Mugello, starts from the third row in seventh.
In the 250cc category, Italy’s Mattia Pasini starts on pole ahead of Kalex teammates Marcel Schroetter of Germany and Spain’s Alex Marquez.
In 125cc, three Honda riders start on the front row with Spaniard Jorge Martin on pole ahead of Japanese pair Tatsuki Suzuki and Ayumu Sasaki.