Valentino Rossi has conceded his first MotoGP pole position for over a year was a surprise for his Movistar Yamaha squad as he explains how “something old” unlocked a turnaround in performance at Mugello.

The nine-time world champion bolted to pole position at his home race with a new outright lap record of 1m 46.208s, beating Marc Marquez’s best lap of 1m 46.439s set in FP3, while also seeing off a late charge from Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo in qualifying for his first pole since 2016 Japanese round.

Rossi says the qualifying result came as a shock having struggled for one lap pace during the current MotoGP campaign, Mugello’s effort marking his first front row start of 2018, as he continues a recent resurgence having blamed the electronics for Yamaha performance woes.

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The 39-year-old says adjustments to the balance of his factory Yamaha produced at the recent Circuit de Catalunya test have provided him with a better feeling from the front tyre to increase his corner speed which he says came from trying “something old” with his YZR-M1.

“It is a long time without a pole position because last year we never had one but especially this year I struggled a lot in qualifying and have never been on the front row,” Rossi said. “To come back on to the front row with the pole position is something special and in Mugello it is also more.

“We worked on the bike at the test in Barcelona and we were able to improve the balance a little bit. We don’t have a lot of new stuff we tried to find something in the past, something old, to try to understand.

“The reality is I feel good with the bike and also during the weekend we tried to improve the feeling with the front and the corner speed, the turning, which was good.

“We worked a bit in Barcelona, nothing special, but it looks like we’ve improved the balance a bit. One lap is one story and the race will be more difficult. Historically Mugello is a good track for Yamaha but like you said it is a surprise for me and us to be on the front row.”

Rossi expects a much tougher challenge to fight at the front over a race distance and predicts anyone from the front of the grid down to 2017 Mugello winner Andrea Dovizioso, who qualified seventh, has a shot at victory.

The Italian rider also expects tyre selection will become vital to maximise his chances for a first win since Assen last year and first victory at Mugello in a decade.

“Looking at the pace unfortunately it is more in the 47s than the 48s because a lot of riders are fast,” he said. “I think that the first seven can win and fight for the victory.

“A lot of different riders and different bikes that have great pace. It will be very important for the work from today going into tomorrow to try to improve the tyres. The tyre choice will be crucial, front and rear, for everybody. After that we’ll see. The pole position is always a great place to start but the race is long so we’ll see.”

 

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