2009 MotoGP title leader Valentino Rossi is pushing for last-minute improvements to the set-up of his Fiat Yamaha, after being left 0.879sec behind Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa in qualifying at Indianapolis.
The reigning six-time MotoGP champion has been third-fourth-third in the three track sessions held so far this weekend and was never a factor in Saturday's pole battle.
Indeed, the Italian legend - winner of the storm-shortened 2008 Indy event - only claimed a front row start by edging out satellite Honda rider Alex de Angelis by the slimmest of margins on his very last lap.
Rossi will therefore line-up behind Pedrosa and his own team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on Sunday's grid.
“It was a difficult day for us, we struggled quite a lot right from this morning,” said Rossi. “This afternoon we tried to improve the setting of the bike, but I was unable to ride as I want.
“I am not strong enough in the pace and also with the soft tyre, so this front row is so important. I am happy because I only beat de Angelis at the last moment and the front row is important for the race.
“Now we have to understand. We need to check the data and improve our pace. Dani is very strong, but also Jorge is stronger than us with the same bike and we have to understand why.
“We have great memories of the victory last year, but the pace is more than two seconds quicker this year. I think it will be a tough race for the rear tyre because the surface is very abrasive.
“We will need to improve our pace because like this we are unable to fight for victory.”
Although concerned by how Lorenzo has extracted more performance from his M1, Rossi also believes Yamaha has lost ground relative to Honda following the introduction of new engine rules at Brno, which restrict each rider to five engine changes for the last seven races.
The eight-time world champion indicated that Yamaha has responded to the new rules by 'detuning' its engine more than Honda has.
“I think that from Brno, when the new engine rules began, we lost a little bit in acceleration compared to Honda,” he said. “But Dani is also fast in the corners here so he is so strong, a little bit too strong!”
Rossi, who has won five races so far this year, will start round twelve with a 50 point lead over Lorenzo.