The last time Valentino Rossi had the chance to convert pole position into victory at Jerez was in 2005.
The nine-time world champion will now try and repeat the feat after snatching pole away from title rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez on his final lap of 2016 qualifying.
The Italian emerged 0.122s clear of Yamaha team-mate and reigning champion Lorenzo, with Honda's Marc Marquez just 0.155s behind. It was Rossi's 62nd pole, but first since Assen 2015, when - as at Jerez 2005 - he went on to win the race.
“It's good to battle with Marquez and Lorenzo at this level and have an advantage. It means I did a good job,” Rossi said. “It was good to get pole at Assen last year, because for me Jerez and Assen are at the same level.
“But maybe this one is better. Because last year I expected to be strong in Assen, but this year I wasn't sure to be so strong in Jerez.”
Rossi, renowned for struggling since the introduction of a 15-minute pole position shootout in 2013, has now qualified on the front row for three races in a row. The last time The Doctor did that was back in 2009, so why the transformation?
“I don't know,” Rossi admitted. “Maybe because I grew up as a rider with these [Michelin] tyres and I arrived with the Bridgestone [in 2008] already quite old for my career.
“Also with Michelin usually in the qualifying you use the soft and for the race the hard, but with Bridgestone a lot of times you have to make qualifying with the same tyre as the race. But sincerely I also don't know why.
“Jerez is a track I like a lot and in the [previous] Michelin era I was always very, very fast in this track. But after with the Bridgestone I struggled more. I did some good races but I feel not strong enough. Especially last year. At the end it was a podium but I struggled all weekend.
“So we try to start from Friday with the right concentration and sincerely I feel very good with the bike and tyres from first practice and we work very well. So looks like this year in the qualifying I'm stronger and faster compared to last year.
“I was on the front row at the last two grands prix but to make the pole position is another taste.”
Nevertheless, victory in the race depends on much more than starting at the front.
“The race is always very difficult because to stay in front and try to fight for victory you have to start well, you have to be fast in the first laps and at the same time keep a great rhythm in the second half of the race,” he said.
“The tyre choice will be important. It is still open so we need to understand the way to follow, but I think we can be competitive. For sure I feel stronger than last year here, but we need to wait for tomorrow to understand if it is enough to fight for victory or not.”
A substantial 0.689s gap separated Marquez from fourth-on-the-grid Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Rossi agreed that the front row trio look to be a level above the rest: “Looks like this weekend the three of us have another pace, a better pace, compared to the other guys.
“The last time I was on pole position here was 2005 and the next day was a great race. So I hope for the same.”
Rossi's 2005 victory came after a last corner showdown with a previous Spanish MotoGP star, Sete Gibernau. Marquez and Lorenzo then clashed over second place at the same turn in 2013.
So what's the best position to be in if the trio are still together going into Sunday's final turn?
“The last corner has seen a lot of great battles. I think the best position is first with one-second advantage!” Rossi quipped.
In order to get that far Rossi will need to avoid the clutch problems experienced last time in Austin, which may have contributed to his race fall and first DNF since 2014. To help solve the issue, Yamaha have fitted a special sensor to measure clutch movement on Rossi's M1 this weekend.
“Unfortunately in Austin I burnt the clutch at the start. So we modify already the setting of the clutch for tomorrow, try to have something stronger, and the sensor is to understand deeply what's happened.”
Rossi is currently third in the world championship, 12 points from Lorenzo and 33 from Marquez. The Italian's last race win was at the 2015 British MotoGP.
By Peter McLaren