If Valentino Rossi ever doubted leaving Honda for Yamaha, such thoughts well and truly evaporated under the South African sun at Welkom today, as the Italian took a landmark pole position for the season-opening Africa's Grand Prix.

"That was a fantastic lap, I'm really happy - it's like getting ten 'normal' pole positions!" beamed Rossi, who held off former Honda colleague Sete Gibernau by just 0.035secs. "We've done something that nobody expected in a really short time, in just a matter of months.

"I gave 100 percent and I think this is a great moment for the sport and especially for everyone at Yamaha," he added. "This is probably one of the greatest moments of my career so far - but now we need to win a race."

"I'm not too surprised," claimed crew chief Jerry Burgess. "I knew we'd worked really hard, that everyone at Yamaha had worked very hard, and Valentino of course, and I expected we'd be near the front.

"However these are early days, this is one race of sixteen and this is our first pole position. But as a team it's great to be in this position today and now we have to turn that into something positive tomorrow."

In terms of performance, Rossi has been literally perfect so far this weekend - leading every one of the four sessions to deliver continuous confidence-shaking blows to his Honda led rivals. However, the #46 knows race day may prove a different challenge.

"Tomorrow is going to be very difficult, I don't know how the bike will perform on race tyres and we still have more work to do," he warned. "We're not going to change anything on the bike. Anyway let's see for tomorrow and hopefully I'll sleep OK tonight!"

Joining Rossi and Gibernau on the now three-rider front row will be Camel Honda's Max Biaggi - and with the top eleven riders all qualifying within one-second of Rossi it looks like MotoGP fans can expect a great race tomorrow...