Valentino Rossi said he was lucky to emerge unscathed from a crash in the fastest corner in an incident-packed qualifying session ahead of tomorrow's Spanish MotoGP showdown at Jerez.
The Italian fell heavily at the first fast right-hander in the final section at Jerez and while his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 suffered extensive damage, he walked away unhurt and still managed to claim his best grid position of the campaign.
Rossi set a best time of 1.39.300 to finish only 0.038s behind British rider Cal Crutchlow, who also suffered a heavy tumble in the 15-minute QP2.
Rossi hadn’t qualified higher than seventh in the opening two races of the season but a starting position of fifth for tomorrow’s 27-lap race gives him confidence that he will be in the podium hunt after a disappointing race in Texas last month.
The nine-times world champion said: “I am in the top five which was the minimum target and it is very important for the race. At the end I crashed on the fastest corner but luckily I am OK. There is some damage on the bike but the important thing is I am good and ready for the race.”
Rossi finished a massive 0.627s behind factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo but believes without an early mistake he might have qualified on the front row for the first time since he re-joined the Japanese factory.
He added: “I can do better because in the first lap I had a similar problem in the next corner and I lose 0.2s or 0.3s, so maybe I could be on the front row or maybe fourth in front of Crutchlow. It looks like the top five have a better pace so it is crucial to make a good start and try to understand the race and the rhythm in the first four or five laps because for sure everybody I think will start with the soft tyre, so at the beginning it will be a tight rhythm, But the second half of the race will be difficult to control the tyre. It is 27 laps so it will be important to work on the balance and the rear part of the bike to be fast, but especially not to use the rear tyre too much."