James Toseland boosted his hopes of celebrating his 28th birthday in style on Sunday by qualifying a close fifth on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.
Fifth marks the MotoGP rookie's best qualifying performance since equalling that position at Laguna Seca in late July, but the Tech 3 Yamaha rider - who won on his last race appearance at Phillip Island, during the 2007 World Superbike event - believes much more was possible and has high hopes for the race.
"For once it feels nice to be slightly miserable because I know I could have been on the front row," said James. "I went wide at the second corner and I had a bit of a slide coming out of Siberia on my last qualifier but I came across the line and saw a 1min 29 flat. I was pleased with that, but when I saw the front row was a 1min 28.7 and pole was a 1min 28.6, I realised I could have perhaps got pole.
"At least it is nice to know where I lost those three-tenths and that with a bit more time I could have found them rather than wondering where I need to make up time on the quick guys," he continued. "I've got to thank my guys at Tech 3 because we have worked well all weekend. The bike has been brilliant in the dry and it is a long time since I have come to such a familiar track and been comfortable with the bike. And when it all comes together it is a great feeling to show people what I'm capable of.
"If I can't do well at these tracks then I'm in trouble," said the straight-talking Brit. "So it is nice to prove that on a track I've got some experience on with this bike, I can get the job done. We have got a great set-up for the race having made a small change on the rear. The new setting helped me use the tyre a bit better on the corner exit, so rather than spinning and going sideways it was just hooking up a bit better and on these long apex corners it is better for the tyre life, which is crucial at this track.
"If we can get a good start, there is no reason why I can't run at the front. It is an exciting prospect because it has been a long time since I've been able to push at the front, and that's all I came to MotoGP for. Looking at the times it could be a cracking race and I will be giving it my all to celebrate my birthday with a good result," concluded Toseland, who has taken five sixth-place finishes so far this season.
Meanwhile, team-mate Colin Edwards warmed up for his 100th MotoGP appearance with a solid seventh in qualifying.
"I thought it was going to be much better after I got fifth this morning when I was really happy," confessed the Texan. "We just reverted back to our standard setting this morning and instantly I felt good. I was running a good pace and I felt really confident for qualifying. But we had to change bikes for this afternoon and I just didn't have the same feel.
"Normally changing bikes isn't a big deal, but I think on a track like this where everything is so fast and it all feels so sensitive, I felt the change a lot more. It just felt rigid and I couldn't get much feel. And when you have got push so much harder on the qualifying tyres, it is hard to go fast when you don't have feel.
"After all that happened, to come out of it with seventh, I'm actually really happy. It could have been a lot worse given how uncomfortable I felt so I can't complain too much. I'm still looking forward to tomorrow and I believe I can get in the fight, because it is crucial to hang in the slipstream around here.
"It's my 100th Grand Prix tomorrow and I've had some memorable moments since 2003. Hopefully I can make tomorrow one of them."