Valentino Rossi will defend his early 2010 MotoGP World Championship lead from fourth on the grid for Sunday's second round at Jerez in Spain.
The reigning seven time MotoGP champion, who injured his shoulder on a motocross bike shortly after winning round one in Qatar, was pleasantly surprised to find he could once again do without pain killers and set about the task of improving rear traction for his Fiat Yamaha.
Rossi led much of the first 40 minutes of the qualifying hour, before surrendering the lead to his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and then slipping down to as low as sixth at one point.
The Italian lost time on a fast penultimate lap when he had to pass another rider but his final push saw him improve significantly and haul himself up to fourth, just 0.047 off third placed Casey Stoner (Ducati).
"Of course it would be better to be on the front row but fourth is okay and I'm very happy about how much we've improved since this morning,” said Rossi.
“After Pedrosa, the next five of us are all very close and this afternoon I was able to do some laps in the 39s with the harder Bridgestone tyre. We are fast now but we're still not consistent enough so we have to work on this for tomorrow.
“My shoulder feels a lot better today and I have to say thank you to all of the Clinica Mobile and everyone who has worked on it. I am still lacking a bit of strength but the pain is okay. I am hoping for a great race tomorrow for all the fans,” he added.
"We know we have the performance to fight; we just need to make sure we can maintain it for the race distance,” confirmed team manager Davide Brivio. “We have a bit more work to do on the bike and some settings to adjust in order to make the tyre work better for us and then we will be ready."