Andrea Dovizioso says a small problem in the final five minutes of qualifying at Le Mans prevented him from challenging for a pole position he believes was a realistic goal for his Tech 3 Yamaha.
The Italian had risen to the top of the times as qualifying neared its conclusion, but as Honda's Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa improved their times he instead headed into the pits and sat out the final five minutes.
Dovizioso said his early finish had been caused by a 'small problem', and insisted he was therefore happy to have therefore finished third, his first front row start since moving from the works Honda squad to Tech 3 for the start of 2012.
"I am really happy to be on the front row for the first time with Tech 3 and Yamaha," Dovizioso said. "At the home race for the team it is beautiful.
"I have been fast in every session and even in the tricky conditions at the start of qualifying I was very competitive and strong and the times were coming really easily.
"I am particularly happy to be on the front row because a small problem meant I was not able to be on track for the final five minutes of the session. That is the period when you improve your time and it was a pity that I couldn't battle in the final stages because I'm sure I had a chance of getting pole position.
"So to be on the front row despite not riding in the last five minutes is fantastic and I am very confident for the race tomorrow. I'm sure I have the pace to stay at the front."
Dovizioso's team-mate Cal Crutchlow said he too had the potential to fight for pole, but struggled with set-up and a few small errors on his final laps.
"I can't be disappointed to have qualified in fifth position but I think I could have challenged for pole position had things gone my way," Crutchlow insisted. "I made a couple of small mistakes on my fast laps right at the end and that cost me a little bit of time.
"We didn't have the best setup with the bike: we made some modifications for qualifying but with the conditions wet and damp at the start, we couldn't tell if it was an improvement and in hindsight it would have been better to stay with the setting I ran this morning."