Valentino Rossi will chase his 99th grand prix victory from fourth on the grid in Sunday's French Grand Prix at Le Mans.

The reigning six time MotoGP champion and 2009 world championship leader had been a subdued sixth and eleventh in free practice, but upped his pace in qualifying to get within 0.132sec of pole sitter Dani Pedrosa.

Sunday's race will have extra significance for Rossi since he must win in order to fight for his 100th victory in front of his home fans at Mugello later this month.

Fortunately for the Italian, he also won from fourth on the grid last time out at Jerez and - despite not featuring at the top so far this weekend - the Fiat Yamaha rider insists things are improving and is expecting a fun race, with the unpredictable French weather set to continue.

"Qualifying was a lot better for us!" said Rossi, who led a Yamaha one-two-three at Le Mans last year. "Yesterday and then again this morning we weren't in such good shape, but we've done a good job to fix the bike and this afternoon I could ride how I wanted.

"It's not perfect and we can still make it better, but we're okay. We're on the second row and a good start will be important because all the top riders are very, very close and there are many that I think can challenge for the race tomorrow.

"I think it could be a very fun race; for the fans but I hope also for us!" he declared. "I do hope it's dry, like this, but if it's going to rain it would be better if it rained all day so we can try our wet setting in the warm-up, because finally here we've been more or less on a dry track for all three sessions."

"This afternoon went well and we have been able to recover from this morning, when we had some small difficulties to overcome," stated team manager Davide Brivio. "We still have room for a few little improvements in order to be in perfect shape for tomorrow, but we have time. Starting fourth is not so bad, it's where we started in Jerez and that went well! We're looking forward to an exciting race."

Rossi will start round four with an eleven point lead over Ducati's Casey Stoner, who will line-up third on the grid behind Pedrosa and Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.