Valentino Rossi qualified his factory Ducati GP11 machine in ninth position for the third time in four races today in Le Mans, the Italian conceding he faces another tough race to claim a top five.
Rossi clocked a best lap of 1.34.206 to finish over a second behind Casey Stoner’s pole position time as he struggled to take full advantage of the extra grip from Bridgestone’s soft compound rear tyre in the decisive final stages of qualifying.
The 32-year-old, who is using a new carbon fibre chassis during this weekend’s Le Mans clash to try and improve an understeer issue said: "The position is very bad but we increase our performance and I can ride the bike in a better way. I’m quite happy because we fix a lot of problems from this morning. The problem is that with the soft tyre the Yamahas can improve the lap time more than us, so I have in front of me (Cal) Crutchlow, Colin (Edwards) and (Ben) Spies that during the practice were behind. I have to start from ninth again but we are not so far."
"We have to improve in some places and decide the right tyre for tomorrow. That will be an issue because I think this time it is a big question mark between the hard and soft. I think that realistically the Hondas are too fast for me but in general for everybody. (Jorge) Lorenzo is the man without the Honda who is faster but we are not so far. I believe I can make a good race and fight for a better position than ninth. I have still some problems and for sure at the end of the race I have to resist because after some laps, this track is very difficult for the shoulder and I lose some power. I have to keep pushing and try to have a good pace and go in 34s for the whole race."
Rossi seems to be consistently stuck around a second off the pace in qualifying and he added: "One second is our nightmare because we are always one second behind. In a race condition I hope to stay closer to Lorenzo and the Yamahas, maybe in front of the other Yamahas. I think it is very difficult to beat Honda because all the riders are faster than us."