Boosted by his best qualifying performance of the season, Valentino Rossi is aiming for victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
It’s now seven races since Rossi won his only race of the season at the Dutch TT in June.
He will start second on the front row, having just been edged out of pole in the final seconds of qualifying by rookie ace Marc Marquez.
It was Marquez’s eighth pole of a so far stellar season for Honda that has seen him win six races and eight pole positions.
Rossi survived a scary moment in qualifying to claim his front row spot and he has been competitive across two days of practice at a hot, humid, and often rainy Sepang.
While sensing the rare opportunity for a win at 34 years of age against his young and fast rivals, Rossi understands the challenge he faces.
“This is a very difficult race physically and I am quite old so maybe I will feel it more than four or five years ago but I hope it will be easier in the race with the adrenaline flowing,” Rossi said.
“But twenty laps is a long way here especially to manage to still have energy at the end.
“It will be a pity if it rains for the race but it is impossible to understand the weather here. I hope to make a good race and arrive in front.”
“I was very confident with the bike today but the other guys are very fast. Marquez is very strong and Jorge (Lorenzo) also has an incredible pace plus Pedrosa.
“It will be hard but I will focus on myself and try to fight with the top three.”
Qualifying was a dramatic affair that rewarded the risk takers with intermittent showers leaving turns six and seven treacherous for riders.
Rossi’s Yamaha teammate Lorenzo had a huge moment there which convinced him that pushing for pole would be unwise and he qualified fourth on the second row.
“I saw the moment of Jorge but mine was worse,” Rossi said.
“I didn’t expect that it was more wet than other parts of the track, there were only a few spots of rain in front of the pits.
“When I arrived at turn six I had a big slide, a scary moment and my bike was very clever not to crash. I was lucky.
“The conditions were very difficult but we were able to do good times. I am very happy as this is the first time to be second on the grid this season.
“When I did my lap I saw P1 but Marc still had to finish his lap and just beat me. It was pity.”
TV ALERT — Watch Live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix Sunday at 4a ET on FOX Sports 1.