The most crucial pole position of Valentino Rossi's career means the Italian is perfectly placed to claim a sixth MotoGP crown in Sunday's Valencia title showdown, while a second row start has limited Nicky Hayden's already slim options to an all or nothing attack.

As well as pole, Rossi will start the final, 30 lap, battle of the 990cc era with an eight-point advantage over Hayden and is naturally feeling confident after such a strong qualifying performance - but remains focussed following an unpredictable season that has seen him suffer engine problems, tyre failures and injuries.

"This pole position is crucial for me because it is an important part of my race tactics to start from the front," revealed Rossi, who will surely try and break away early on and so avoid a risky battle with Hayden. "The session couldn't have gone much better for us because we have a couple of other riders between myself and Nicky. It is a shame Colin [Edwards - team-mate] is not one of them but he has a good race pace so hopefully he can help me out like he did at Estoril. The team has done a great job this weekend, especially with the balance of the bike. Now we need to make one or two small changes for tomorrow and then we'll just wait and see. I hope the weather will be like this - for the riders and for the fans because it looks like there will be a great crowd! Now we have the most important 30 laps of the season left to complete our target."

"We couldn't have asked for a better starting position for the most important race of the season but the main thing is that Valentino's general feeling with the bike is good and he is comfortable going into such a big day tomorrow," added Camel Yamaha team director Davide Brivio. "Of course, anything can still happen but we feel ready for this last battle and happy in the knowledge that our bike will be competitive enough to go out and race."

Hayden had hit the top of the timesheets with his first flying lap on Michelin qualifying tyres, with 15 minutes of the session to go, but was later impeded by Alex Hofmann in the final corners of what would have been his best lap, costing him 0.4secs and his last chance of pole position. At that point, Hayden was still on the front row, behind Rossi and Ducati's Troy Bayliss, but subsequent improvements from Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano and Loris Capirossi, dropped the Repsol Honda rider to fifth on the grid, 0.376secs behind Rossi.

With the twisty Valencia circuit difficult to pass around, Hayden must now hope for a strong start and will need to be ultra-aggressive through the first few corners to keep his title dream alive. But, with second in the championship already guaranteed, Nicky literally has nothing to lose.

"We're starting on the second row and that means I need a lightning start tomorrow," said Nicky, before confirming an all-out attack and the reflecting on the pace of the Ducatis: "We're definitely going all in for the win and it'll be interesting because there are some guys going really fast out there. I need fast guys - but I don't need them to be faster than me!

"I didn't get on the front row where I needed to be which makes it a bit harder for me - and I'm not thrilled about that," he admitted. "On my last qualifier I had a good lap going and then had a bit of an issue with traffic in the last split when I had to pass a guy who was starting a lap while I was still on a hot one. It kinda got me off line and I lost a lot of time in the last split but I don't want to make excuses. We need to tweak on it tonight and see if I can find a little more pace. Regardless I just need to focus on the race and finish the year strong - whatever happens happens."

"Our target is very clear for tomorrow and the whole team will be concentrating 100 per cent to achieve it," added Repsol Honda team manager Makoto Tanaka.

There was at least some small consolation for Hayden on Saturday, when he was presented with a BMW Z4 M Coupe for being MotoGP's best qualifier this season. BMW M President Professor Ulrich Bruhnke was on hand to hand the keys over to Hayden, with his combined qualifying time for this season's seventeen GPs and pre-season Official Test totalling 30min 57.341secs, nearly seven-seconds ahead of nearest challenger Colin Edwards. Basketball legend Michael Jordan joined Hayden on laps of the track in his new car.

Meanwhile, the battle of the team-mates saw Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa take a four position lead over Edwards on the grid. The Spanish rookie, aiming to make amends for tragically crashing into Hayden last time out, will thus start alongside his team-mate and looks fast enough to potentially help Hayden, but will need to get ahead of Rossi to do so.

"Today we had a good practice in the morning and made some more progress with the race set-up and tyre choice. We more-or-less have the set-up now although we still need to find a few tenths of a second because some riders improved their race pace in the afternoon," said Dani. "On the qualifying tyres this afternoon at first I was not so fast. I improved a little on my later runs and we finished in sixth place - which is not perfect because Rossi is on pole. From the second row I will need to do a great start tomorrow and get away with the leaders. It's going to be a big race in front of many, many fans so I'm really looking forward to it."

But Edwards, who played the perfect supporting role to Rossi last time out at Estoril, still claims he has a strong race pace and can contribute towards Rossi's title effort.

"I'm really pleased with the race setting," said the Texan. "The bike is a lot better than yesterday - we were confident that the changes we had in mind would work and they did, so I have to give my thanks to the team for that. They've done a great job on the bike and we're all set to give a good showing in the last race. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get it done on the qualifying tyre today so the starting position is a little further back than we would like but I know this circuit really well and hopefully I can use that knowledge to make as many passes as possible at the start of the race, get up there and help Valentino win this championship."

"Unfortunately Colin wasn't able to take advantage of the qualifying tyre today but we're pleased with his pace on race rubber and we expect a big effort from him tomorrow," underlined Brivio. "If he can get a good start then I'm sure he can stay with the lead group and help out Valentino, just like he did at Estoril. We are ready for D-Day!"

 

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