With Valentino Rossi sidelined by injury, it was Dani Pedrosa - rather than Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo - who took pole position for Rossi's home Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

And Rossi's withdraw, for at least several races, means Pedrosa now also has his best ever chance to claim the MotoGP title.

Admittedly, Pedrosa will need to overcome the present 30 point deficit to fellow Spaniard and clear favourite Lorenzo. But losing the title to Rossi is one thing, losing it to arch-rival Lorenzo - who joined MotoGP two years after Pedrosa - is quite another.

As such, Pedrosa won't be lacking motivation as he seeks to ensure that he, and not Lorenzo, becomes Spain's first premier-class champion since Alex Criville in 1999.

Pedrosa will start the fourth round of the season fourth in the championship, two points behind Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso and 21 points from Rossi.

"It's great to be on pole here and we've been working very hard through free practice and in qualifying this afternoon to improve things from yesterday," began Pedrosa, whose only podium of the season so far is a close second place to Lorenzo at Jerez.

"Being on the front row is the important thing and we have to keep our concentration because to win the race is the target - we have to make it tomorrow!

"We were pushing very hard right to the end of the session and we were able to do a good final lap, but the most important factor is that we've been able to be consistent too.

"Lorenzo will be the man to beat tomorrow, but we are confident, the machine is working better here and we are in better shape than at the last race in Le Mans. So tomorrow for the race we hope to maintain our performance right to the end.

"We still have to improve our race pace a little but I'm feeling very well here, I like this circuit, and I think it will be a fun race."

Dovizioso meanwhile will start from a disappointing eighth, having been second - behind only Lorenzo - in morning practice.

"This morning we did a good job, improved the performance from yesterday and we finished second on the timesheets," he confirmed. In the afternoon however, the track conditions changed and, even though I pushed very hard, I couldn't use all the potential of the bike.

"The gap to Dani and Lorenzo has increased a bit and unfortunately I wasn't able to use the soft tyre at its best, which means tomorrow we will start from the third row. This is an area where I have to improve because starting in this position makes things more difficult for the race.

"Anyway I'm still confident for tomorrow. If we can stay with the front group of riders I think we can make a good race."

If either Pedrosa or Dovizioso can claim the MotoGP crown it will be Honda's first title victory since Nicky Hayden in 2006.

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