Valentino Rossi admits his front row start for the Thailand MotoGP has come as a pleasant ‘surprise’ after the Yamaha rider’s recent struggles on the M1.

Rossi narrowly missed out on pole by only 0.011s to Honda’s Marc Marquez at the Chang International Circuit on Saturday as the Italian rider sealed by far his best qualifying result for some time.

The 39-year-old is confident that he can have a strong race on Sunday, but Rossi says he is doubtful his qualifying result will serve as a turning point this season.

“It is like a surprise for us because in the test we were quite in trouble here in this track but we arrive yesterday and did not feel so bad in the practice,” said Rossi, whose team-mate, Maverick Vinales, qualified fourth.

“When I start with a good level, it looks like our bike this time will make the tyre work in a good way, so it is also more easy to make the right decision. Today we worked well with the team and we followed the right way and also from the morning to the afternoon, I improved a lot my pace.

“At the end it is a shame to lose the pole by a small distance, but considering in the last races I always start from the fourth or the fifth row, and in Aragon I was 18th, it is a great result for Saturday,” he added.

“We arrived here with some small modification for the acceleration, but on paper we did not expect that it is a lot better. I hope, with all my heart, that we can be strong in all the tracks, but unfortunately I think that it is the track and the tyre.”

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Rossi feels he can challenge for the podium on Sunday after gaining confidence from his race pace in FP4.

“From yesterday to today, we worked hard to try to improve the balance, to create more grip, and I am not so bad because I feel good; I am not so bad in braking and I am happy to start in the front row, but I am also happy for my pace in FP4 because also with the used tyre I am quite strong,” he said.

“From Aragon, in reality we modified something but the bike is very similar, so maybe it is just the better marriage between the tyre, the M1 and this track. Now we have to confirm tomorrow because you never now, so try to make a good race and fight for the podium.”

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