Suzuki may have been unable to roll out its new upgraded engine in time for Loris Capirossi's home Italian Grand Prix, but the MotoGP veteran was still able to put his GSV-R onto the front row of the grid after a thrilling conclusion to Saturday's qualifying session.
Seventh in Friday practice, Capirossi was fifth during this morning's final practice session and then one of only four riders to record sub01min 50sec laps during the early part of the qualifying session - when all riders were using the harder compound Bridgestone race tyre they will favour in the race.
The highpoint of Capirossi's day came when he snatched pole position from Valentino Rossi with just under two minutes to go, before being nudged back to third by Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner.
"It has been a fantastic day today, especially because I was a bit angry yesterday and we had a really good meeting with all the team and decided to change a lot of things on the bike,” revealed Loris, whose best lap was set while following Rossi and just 0.134sec from Lorenzo's pole position.
“Stuart [Shenton, crew chief] is so clever because he made the right modifications to the GSV-R and from first thing this morning it was working well.
“I know that Suzuki has been doing a lot of work at the factory and we now hope that the new engine that is coming to Barcelona will help even more. The race will be hard for everybody tomorrow, but I don't have anything to lose and I will try my best and see what happens!"
Capirossi also qualified third at Mugello last year, but slipped back to seventh in the race.
Team-mate Chris Vermeulen thanked Capirossi for showing him some lines around the fast Tuscan circuit, but could only manage eleventh on the grid.
"I want to congratulate and also thank Loris,” said the Australian, who is recovering from an illness. “He helped me out in the session and showed me some lines that his 20 years of experience here have produced and you can definitely see the difference when you follow him - that certainly helped me out towards the end of qualifying. I'm in a reasonable position on the grid and in with a lot of good riders, so if I can get a good start hopefully we can have a decent race tomorrow."
Capirossi's front row was Suzuki's best qualifying of the year. The team's best race result so far in '09 is sixth place, achieved once by both Capirossi and Vermeulen.
"Things were really tough yesterday afternoon for both the guys and the team has done very well to turn the bike around and inspire a much higher level of confidence in the GSV-R today,” said team manager Paul Denning. “It's fantastic to be back on the front row, especially with the high level of competition that there is right now.”
Capirossi and Vermeulen were 14th and 17th, out of 17 riders, in terms of top speed during qualifying.