Valentino Rossi was in fine form at Aragon as the Factory Yamaha rider claimed fourth position for the third Spanish MotoGP round of the season tomorrow.

Rossi's fastest lap of 1m 47.762s was only 0.158s slower than Marc Marquez's pole time and the nine-time world champion was more than happy with his best qualifying performance of the campaign.

The Assen race winner had been in contention for pole position until he was leapfrogged by Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, but Rossi is hopeful he can challenge the top three in the championship tomorrow.

"I have a good feeling and I've improved my pace a lot and braking ability also. We have also improved the rear grip over long distance," he said. "I'm so happy because it was a great qualifying for me and I enjoyed it a lot. The level was very high and we were just one-tenth from pole position, so we are all together.

"From yesterday we modified the bike and tried to improve the balance and we did a good job. This morning I was able to do a good lap time and I had a good sensation with the bike.

"We had a very good pace in FP4 and I was already happy with my rhythm and I knew that in the 15 minutes of qualifying I could be competitive.

"I was only 0.158s from pole position and I missed out on the front row by only five thousands but that's not a big problem. The good thing is that I am one of the four riders in the 1m 47s and I have a good pace and can stay with the top guys tomorrow.

"It's important to improve the grip on the edge because the other guys will improve too but I'm better in braking and our tyre life is improved. I'm happy with the distance to pole position because even though it's a fourth place the top four are very close. It's a pity to lose the front row but the distance to pole position is a lot more positive."

Apart from set-up, the other area where Rossi admitted to needing an improvement was his pace on the opening laps. Lorenzo's recent wins at Silverstone and Misano came as a result of his ability to get to the front and ride qualifying laps at the start of the race.

"We have worked on the first lap and improving the setting of the bike and every time I tried today I was quite strong from the beginning, but we know that Jorge is always a bit stronger," said Rossi. "Jorge will start from second place tomorrow and usually his start is very good so we'll need to give the maximum and ride like in qualifying for the first two laps."

With today's qualifying ran in much cooler conditions than the opening day of running it played to the strengths of the Yamaha. Rossi is hoping for similar conditions during tomorrow's race because the warmer conditions put greater strain on the engine in terms of outright performance but also crucially in terms of fuel economy.

With Rossi having ran out of fuel on the cool down lap at Silverstone and having lost a lot of power at Misano it was a concern coming to Aragon, but after qualifying Rossi was confident that it won't be an issue during the race.

"We hope that tomorrow the temperature is not hotter because in higher temperatures we suffer more to the Honda's and it's the same with fuel consumption, but I'm not very worried and I don't think that it will be a big issue."

Rossi, winner at Assen this year, has finished fourth at the last four races.

Rossi and team-mate Lorenzo are believed to have 'opened' their fifth and final engine of the season this weekend at Aragon, round 14 of 18.


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