Valentino Rossi hasn’t ruled himself out of battling for the podium in tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Japan, despite qualifying in a lowly ninth position at the Twin Ring Motegi.
Rossi set a best time of 1.45.976 on his factory Ducati GP12 to finish 1.007s behind Jorge Lorenzo, who stormed to the 50th pole position of his career in sunny conditions.
The nine-times world champion was less than 0.5s from Alvaro Bautista in fifth and while he hasn’t ruled himself out of scoring a third rostrum of the season in tomorrow’s 24-lap race, he admitted it is a big ask to fight his way through from the back of the third row.
Speaking to MCN in Japan today, Rossi said: “For me it will be difficult for the podium but you never know. We are not so far away but the problem is that there are five or six riders that are very similar on the pace, so if we can stay in front it is possible to make the podium.
"If unfortunately we have to stay behind we will fight for eighth or ninth. Today was not a bad day for us because we work well on the bike and in the afternoon I improve my lap time a lot. I made a 45.9 and that’s not so bad.
"I am a lot faster than last year and we are quite happy. Unfortunately it is not enough for the second row and that was our target. I’m not so far though from the front row and it is very close but unfortunately I am only ninth because all the non-factory Hondas and Yamahas are very fast.
"We are not so happy for the position but quite happy with the performance. We have to wait and see what happens in the race because my pace is nothing fantastic but not bad and I am quite constant.”
An issue for Rossi today once again remained overheating carbon brake discs in the severe hard braking sections at the stop and go Twin Ring Motegi.
Several riders have complained of a loss of braking power with excessive heat being generated in the hard braking zones.
Rossi said the main reason for the temperature issue being an acute problem this season was because of the extra speed of the new generation 1000cc bikes.
He added: “Today it was a bit better even if remained an issue. It is bad at Turn 10 but especially 11 and I hear that more or less everybody else has the same problem. I think it is because the bike is heavier and we arrive in the corner 10-15kph faster at the braking point with the 1000s compared to last year.
"I think everybody needs to pay attention, especially in the first laps at Turn 11 because the brake doesn’t give 100% of the stopping power.”