Race-winning rookie Jorge Lorenzo returned to the front row of the MotoGP grid for the first time since his perfect run of three pole positions in the opening three races of the season, at Misano on Saturday.
The Fiat Yamaha rider qualified his factory M1 in third position, just 0.076 behind team-mate Valentino Rossi, after much needed improvements to his Michelin tyres helped the frequently injured 250cc world champion regain his old confidence and flair.
Lorenzo's first run with a qualifying tyre put him straight to the top of the standings and he was able to improve twice more, before being edged out by Casey Stoner and Rossi in the closing stages. He and his crew now hope to make some final set-up improvements before bidding for a podium return in Sunday's 28 lap race.
"Straight from yesterday morning it's clear that this track is a different situation for us," Lorenzo said of his tyres. "We're struggling much less and my Michelin tyres are much more competitive again here, so thanks to them. I can ride in a good, flowing rhythm once more and my tyres are giving me the confidence that I need in order to go fast.
"It feels really good to be back on the front row again and I am very happy today," he added. "The two guys in front of me are going very fast, so it will be difficult to go with them tomorrow, but I will be aiming to score a podium finish."
"It's great to finally be back on the front row after some time and, more importantly, to watch Jorge riding so competitively again," said team manager Daniele Romagnoli. "Thanks to Michelin for their work because the tyres performed very well today and enabled Jorge to have good confidence and feeling with the bike, which in turn has enabled the team to find a good set-up.
"We have improved session by session throughout the weekend and now we are confident that we can continue to be competitive in the race tomorrow. We hope to see Jorge fighting at the front again and getting the result he deserves," he concluded.