Valentino Rossi was left questioning his race form after struggling to a fourth spot in qualifying at Valencia today. The Yamaha rider, who already wrapped this year's MotoGP title a fortnight ago in Malaysia, was unable to challenge for the front row and ended up almost four tenths behind teammate Jorge Lorenzo in third place.
Rossi lamented a lack of grip with the rear tire, and is not optimistic he can find a solution in the warm-up ahead of the race. "We are struggling a bit," said the nine-time champion. "In the end, fourth position isn't too bad with the way qualifying was going. I go well with the soft tire but I struggle more with the hard tire because I lack some grip, so I'll have to start from the second row.
"We'll see if we can be a bit faster and more competitive tomorrow, because it's hard if it stays this way. I lack grip: at the exit of slow turns the rear tire slides a lot, so I lose time and I'm not strong under braking, so my bike's balance isn't OK. It's a shame. We looked more competitive yesterday, while today it's been rather disappointing. I predict a hard time tomorrow, we'll try to do better and to modify the setup, but I'm not that sure I can be competitive.
"To ride the bike like today is frustrating. Let's hope we can be a bit better tomorrow. The warm-up will be extremely important. We'll try other things, but it's difficult because this year it's harder to find the setup on Sunday morning. We'll try to find some more grip."
Rossi, who expects pole position man Casey Stoner (Ducati) to win the race, hopes to be able to fight for the podium, but is wary of the rivals who start behind him. "For me, the maximum we can do is aim for the podium, trying to be closer to Dani Pedrosa and maybe to Jorge [Lorenzo], but we don't have the pace. It would be good already if we stay away from Colin Edwards, Ben Spies and Randy de Puniet. In my opinion Stoner is a little bit faster than Dani and Jorge, so he's the favorite for tomorrow."
Rossi was also impressed by Spies' debut with Yamaha, after having said yesterday that the World Superbike champion would need time to adapt. The American, entered as a wild card this weekend ahead of a full-time ride with customer outfit Tech 3 next year, qualified ninth. "Spies is not so bad, is he? He went fast, did a good lap time, and improved a lot on yesterday. I'm positively impressed with Ben," concluded Rossi.