MotoGP championship leader Valentino Rossi celebrated a rare front row start thanks to his final qualifying lap at Brno.

Riding at same Czech circuit where he claimed his first grand prix pole - and win - in 1996, the relieved Movistar Yamaha rider slotted into third with a lap 0.364s from the record pace of team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo.

While Lorenzo has qualified on the front row eight times this year, Sunday will be only the second such appearance for Rossi after pole at Assen. Honda's reigning champion Marc Marquez, winner of the last two rounds, will start between the M1 riders.

Related Articles

"It's very important because after the summer break, sincerely also before, but after it looks like Jorge and Marc made another step,"Rossi said. "They are in a perfect shape and in complete control with the bike and they never make any mistakes in qualifying. They are always in the front row.

"So if I want to try to fight with them for the championship I need to make a step, because this is just my second front row of the season. This time it worked. I'm happy. I was confident that I could do better and find the right level of concentration and especially we worked well today.

"I was able to ride well on the last lap of qualifying and to take the front row. It is very important because Jorge and Marc will be very fast from the beginning and if you start from behind it will be impossible to stay with them."

Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez were separated by just 0.175s in terms of best lap time during final practice, the session dedicated to race preparation, but their average pace suggested Lorenzo currently has the edge over Marquez and Rossi.

"We've done a good job but I don't know if it is enough because Jorge is in a great shape and the guy to beat, with more pace and able to keep a very good rhythm for all the race," Rossi stated. "At the same time Marc is very strong. He has a different bike to us so it is a bit more difficult to understand his pace, but I'm sure he'll be strong from the beginning to the end.

"I'll try to make a good start, stay with them and see what happens."

Rossi's championship advantage was reduced to nine points over Lorenzo last Sunday at Indianapolis points, with Marquez 56-points adrift.

Dani Pedrosa, whom Rossi battled for third until the final lap at Indianapolis, suffered a foot injury on Friday and looks unlikely to be in podium contention after qualifying in ninth.

However the likes of fourth place Andrea Iannone (Ducati) has the speed and aggression to mix it with the title top-three early in the race.

"It looks like it can be a good fight because we are on the first row and we have the best pace. But also Iannone is very fast and I think he can stay with us," Rossi said.

"The race depends very much on what happens in the first laps. For example if Jorge starts in front and goes away, it will not be the 'battle of battles'. If we can arrive in the last laps together then it can be."

Like Lorenzo, Rossi has not yet decided whether he will race with the medium or hard rear tyre.

"For me the tyre choice is still open because I feel good also with the hard. Depends very much on the temperature and I think it will be very important for the race to make the right choice," he said.

"I've still not decided. Also it depends on what Jorge and Marc do, although the tyre is personal and changes a bit with the riding style. For me it is 50/50 at the moment."