A confident Valentino Rossi plans to carry the fight to his Movistar Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo as the MotoGP World Championship title leaders prepare for battle at Motegi on Sunday.

Rossi pushed Lorenzo all the way in final qualifying and was only denied a rare pole start by 0.081 seconds in the dying seconds after a sensational performance on the YZR-M1.

The 36-year-old, who holds an advantage of 14 points over Lorenzo ahead of the final four races, made big strides on Saturday after trailing the Majorcan by up to eight tenths in the first three free practice sessions.

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"Today is a positive day for me because already in the morning we did a step and I was quite happy, but it wasn't enough and we did the most important step in the afternoon," said Rossi, who benefitted from improvements in braking and acceleration on Saturday.

"We tried to control all the data and to make the right choice because now is so important and the bike worked a lot better. FP4 is always a very important practice to understand the pace that everyone will do in a race situation.

"I am happy because in the last two exits I was strong and my lap time was not so bad with the used tyre, which means that we can be strong," he added.

"I start for the qualifying very positively because I feel good with the bike and I think we did a good strategy; I was in the right place and especially when I saw 1'43.8 I thought it was enough for the pole and I saw the number 46 in first position, so I was very happy but when I arrived in parc ferme my mechanics said 'second'.

"But anyway it is a good result because I am very close to Jorge [Lorenzo], who is always very strong in qualifying and also in this race track. The lap time was very fast, which means the bike improved a lot and we can ride at 100 per-cent."

A front row start is a massive plus for Rossi, who was keen to avoid starting behind the Honda or Ducati riders in a scenario that would potentially have enabled Lorenzo to make a decisive break at on the opening laps.

"All the top six riders are very strong and we need to understand tomorrow the pace of the Hondas and also of the Ducati, because they are very fast with both riders, especially [Andrea] Iannone - he is very fast also in the practice," Rossi said.

"It is so important to start in front and last year I started in second place and I arrived first in the first corner. I did some good laps but after, Jorge was stronger than me, so now the target for tomorrow is to try to fight with him until the end of the race."

Referring to his position behind Lorenzo in the first time attack, Rossi said he found himself 'in the right place' at the right time.

"The strategy is important; a lot of the time I have been in the same situation as Jorge, to do a good lap but bring three or four in my slipstream and bring them in front of me," he said.

"With this style of qualifying you have to be very concentrated with the eyes open for what is happening. I think it is normal, it has already happened a lot of times and this time I was lucky to be in the right place.

"Anyway, after I know that I can do a little bit better and I was able to improve my lap time but unfortunately I was very excited on my out lap because I think that I could do the pole position," Rossi added.

"But I exaggerated the situation in turns seven and eight and I go wide; I lost one tenth and that is the tenth for the pole position, so it is also very difficult to keep your concentration and try to do the maximum without exaggerating."