After leading his first MotoGP track session since June on Friday, Valentino Rossi qualified on the front row of the grid for the first time since May on Saturday at Motegi in Japan.

The last time the outgoing seven time MotoGP champion started a race from the front row was when he took pole for round three at Le Mans, on May 22, which was the event before his leg-breaking fall at Mugello.

Although doubtful of a strong weekend in Japan due to his lingering shoulder injury, Rossi attributed his strong Motegi form to all-round improvements with his Fiat Yamaha.

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"It is a good feeling to be back on the front row after so long, the last time was at Le Mans, before the Mugello crash!" confirmed Rossi, who finished the session just 0.054 seconds behind debut pole-sitter Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda).

"We have improved in every area here, firstly we have made a big step with our setting, then we have the new engine from Yamaha which is enabling us to push more and be faster on the straights, plus we also have slightly harder Bridgestone tyres here than in Aragon and they are working better for me.

"As I said yesterday I expected to suffer more with the shoulder but I am feeling quite good and when I brake in a straight line here I don't have too much pain. I am so happy about all of this. This front row is going to be very important for tomorrow, we really hope for good weather and let's see what we can do," he added.

Rossi hasn't won a race since round one of the season in Qatar, but the possibility of race day rain means Sunday's contest is hard to predict.

"Valentino was very close to pole position and things are looking good for us to be in with a chance tomorrow," said team manger Davide Brivio. "The weather is a question mark, some rain is expected and we will have to wait and see what the temperature is like before making a final tyre decision, but we're excited about the race."

Rossi and Dovizisoo will be joined on the front row by Ducati's Casey Stoner. Rossi's team-mate and world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo will start fourth.