Despite leading two of the three free practice sessions prior to today's qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix - and being happy with the handling of his Gauloises Yamaha - world champion Valentino Rossi surprisingly lost out on pole position to fellow Michelin rider Nicky Hayden today at Phillip Island.

After tussling with Ducati's Carlos Checa at the top of the time sheets for the majority of the session, Rossi launched his attack for pole in the final few minutes but was held up by fellow M1 pilot Ruben Xaus in the final two corners of his fastest lap.

The Italian abandoned the lap and came in to switch to a fresh tyre for one last attempt, which didn't quite match the pace of his first and fell 0.106secs short of the Repsol Honda rider - but is planning revenge tomorrow, when he will be aiming to both win the race and clinch victory for Yamaha in the Manufacturers' Championship.

"I was quite confident for pole position because the team have done a great job with the bike this weekend and it worked well from yesterday," admitted Rossi. "I lost my best opportunity to take pole when I was held up by Xaus in the final corner; I tried to overtake him but I wasn't able to so I came in and tried again with another tyre.

"Anyway, sometimes that happens. I tried my best and my lap time was very fast but in the end Nicky was faster so congratulations to him - it was a great ride," said the Italian. "I am quite happy because the bike is good and second place is not so bad. It will be a hard race, especially for the tyres, but hopefully the good weather will continue tomorrow!"

"There was a lot of traffic on the track today and a lot of riders trying to follow Valentino to set a good time," claimed team director Davide Brivio. "The penultimate tyre he used was probably the best, but he got held up by Xaus and he was very sensible to come in and take a fresh tyre for another attempt. Anyway, even without the pole position Valentino has shown himself to be very strong today and he has a good race pace."

Meanwhile, Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards knocked almost two seconds off his best effort from yesterday as he became one of only five riders to dip under the 1min 30secs mark at the legendary track.

"When you look back to yesterday the situation today is miles better. It looked like we were going to have a rough weekend but the team have worked really hard and we've worked the majority of the problems out," said the Texan, who will start fro the middle of row two.

"The truth is that we've still got room for improvement but if we can make progress in tomorrow's warm-up in the same way we moved forward today then we should be in even better shape for the race.

"I gotta admit I'm a little relieved because it's a big race for me and after the first couple of practice sessions I wasn't too confident. Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully I can put on a good show for the family, friends and fans who have come down to support me," Colin concluded.

"Colin has also taken some big steps forward since yesterday, so we are confident both our riders can have a good day tomorrow," said Brivio. "We have already won the Riders' and Teams' titles and we hope we can complete the trio with the Manufacturers' championship tomorrow."

Yamaha needs to score just one point more than Honda tomorrow to clinch the Manufacturers' crown with two races to go.



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