Valentino Rossi smashed the pole position record at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia to give his hopes of clinching a seventh MotoGP world title tomorrow a massive boost.
A stunning last lap of 2.00.518 in sweltering heat and humidity crushed his rivals, with Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo closest to Rossi but a massive 0.569s further back in second.
Rossi’s brilliant time beat his previous pole record of 2.00.605 set on a factory Yamaha YZR-M1 990cc machine in 2006.
And the Italian, who just needs to finish fourth in tomorrow’s 21-lap race to clinch a ninth career world championship title, told MCN: “It was a great lap and I think that below 2.01 is the pole position but at the end I am even faster.
"We had a good procedure with Bridgestone at the end and we had more time at the end to take a rest between the soft tyres because if you push a lot like this in these conditions it is easy to lose a lot of concentration.
"Unfortunately the dashboard wasn’t working so I couldn’t see the time live. But it is great because I did a 2.00.6 with a 990 bike and with Michelin qualifying tyres front and rear - that was a fantastic time. I am so happy because it means the bike, but especially the Bridgestone tyres are very strong.”
Rossi said he would ride a tactical race with the championship in mind but that he would also try and claim his fourth premier class crown for Yamaha with a victory.
He said fans though could be treated to a classic encounter, adding: “I am so happy to have pole position because it is important to start from the first row.
"But looking at the lap times, tomorrow’s race is the most balanced for a long period. Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa and me almost make the same lap time and I make a lot of laps but not faster than the other guys. So it is going to be a good fight.”
Rossi said that his first target would be to get on the podium and he said: “The main target is to arrive on the podium, but we have a good setting and we are ready for the race.
"It is a long way from the line to the first corner and from the line it is possible that Dani overtakes me because of his good starts. But is it is very important to try and stay in front of Jorge and Stoner at the first corner.”