Nine-time motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi scored a popular pole position in qualifying for the MotoGP Italian Grand Prix at Mugello on Saturday, edging out future Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales by less than one-tenth of a second.
Rossi arrived in Italy chasing his first home pole position since 2008, and duly delivered a popular result for the droves of fans that had made their way to Mugello for the weekend.
A fastest lap of 1:46.504 was enough to give Rossi his second pole position of the season, much to his surprise after a difficult Friday practice running.
“I‘m very, very happy because it has been a long time since I last had pole here in Mugello, in the last years I was always struggling a lot,” Rossi said.
“From free practice this afternoon we made a good step with the bike and I had a good pace. Qualifying is always difficult, but we followed the right strategy in the right moment of qualifying and I am very happy to start from first position, first of all for all the fans, but especially here it‘s so important that I ride in front.”
Rossi and Vinales spent much of qualifying using each other for tow, allowing them to surge to the top two positions in the timesheets. Vinales finished just 0.094 seconds behind in second place, giving Suzuki a boost.
Andrea Iannone qualified third to ensure that there were two Italian riders on the front row of the grid, beating Honda’s Marc Marquez in P4. Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo was left to settle for fifth on the grid, finishing three-tenths of a second down on teammate Rossi.
Aleix Espargaro finished the session sixth on the second Suzuki ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Bradley Smith, while Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding rounded out the top 10.