US MotoGP: Valentino Rossi equals best qualifying in 2011

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Valentino Rossi equalled his best qualifying result of the season in Laguna Seca, but the nine-times world champion says he’s still got work to do to compete for a top six finish in today’s 32-lap race.

The Italian put his factory Ducati GP11.1 in seventh place on the grid after clocking a best time of 1.22.235 on his final lap of a sun-drenched qualifying session in California.

Rossi though was still 1.033s behind Jorge Lorenzo in pole position and he said his pace is not quick enough on the hard compound Bridgestone rear tyre.

Rossi, who slumped to his worst result of the campaign with ninth in Germany last weekend, said: “At the end this was a good qualifying for us. This morning we made a great improvement and I expected to be faster this afternoon. But at the beginning of qualifying I had a lot problems to ride with the hard tyre and I was very slow.

“It was a surprise and gave us some confusion but fortunately Jerry (Burgess) made a modification that gave me better grip and I could push with the soft tyre and could make a lot better than in the previous races.  I’m on the third row and for sure that will be easier. But we need to make a better set-up for the hard rear because I don’t have enough grip and I think the hard rear is good for the race. We have to improve because (Nicky) Hayden and (Hector) Barbera are better than us for race pace.”

Rossi paid tribute to crew chief Burgess after the set-up modification. The Australian returned to the paddock in Laguna Seca after missing the two previous races to support his wife Claudine, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Rossi added: “It is a big help because he had the idea for the modification at the end of the practice and if not maybe I have to start from 13th another time.  Jerry is in good shape and we try to give as much information as possible to Ducati for the new bike to improve it and Jerry is a good advantage.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt