Valentino Rossi thrilled to be back on top in Jerez

Valentino Rossi could barely contain his delight after he put a disastrous two-year stint at Ducati firmly behind him in Jerez today when he set the fastest time on a day of domination by Yamaha.

Rossi went some way to showing he will be a title contender in 2013 after he logged a best time of 1.39.525 to edge out factory Yamaha teammate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.015s.

After yesterday’s heavy rain disrupted the start of the final winter test, Rossi completed 46-laps in vastly improved conditions to head a Yamaha 1-2-3 that saw British rider Cal Crutchlow take a superb third place on the timesheets.

Rossi, who hasn’t won a race since he triumphed at the Sepang track in Malaysia in 2010, said modifications to the set-up of his YZR-M1 to help corner entry performance had been key to his fast pace today.

He’d also used a new Bridgestone rear tyre when the track was in arguably its best condition to deliver a result that will delight tens of thousands of MotoGP fans around the world.

The 34-year-old said: “It is a very positive day for us. We are so satisfied and very happy. It is not very important but at the same time important to close the day in first position because it is always a great pleasure.

"We tried to modify the setting of the M1 to adapt in a better way the bike to my style and I start with a normal setting but when I go on the other bike I improve a lot my lap time and I improve a lot my feeling on the bike, especially on the entry of the corner and I can go faster with the used tyre.

"Also at the end I put in a new tyre and I was able to do a good lap time to stay in front and during the lap in all the sections I am able to go fast like Jorge and that is a great achievement for us.

"Today the Yamaha made the difference because have three M1s in the top three. Lorenzo was also faster and also Crutchlow but to stay in first position is great. We have a new chassis to try tomorrow that we hope can improve our level and be ready for Qatar.

"This track is very good for me and very good for the bike because in the fast corners where you have to keep high speed, our bike is very good and very stable and there is not a strong restart from the hairpin and we can be competitive and we are all happy.”

Rossi scored just three podium finishes in 35 races at Ducati and couldn’t even recall the last time he saw his name at the top of the timesheets in a race, practice session or test.

He added: “I don’t remember. I remember the last victory with Yamaha in 2010. I don’t remember if I was first with Ducati. In the wet maybe but I have to say at the end the last hour was worse and it started to rain.

"We put the tyre in at the right moment and we can make a picture like the tourists when they go round Rome and see the Collosseum.”

Rossi may have been delighted to top the timesheets today but he said he is still adapting to the YZR-M1 after his troubled time at Ducati where he struggled with a chronic understeer issue.

He added: “Today we make a quite big modify to the setting but I have to improve a lot. The entry of the corner I still don’t use the maximum of the M1. For example I use too much the rear brake and I have to work a lot on my style to use the M1 at 100%.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt