MUGELLO, Italy – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi stormed to the pole position in qualifying on Saturday at Autodromo del Mugello, setting a new lap record in the process.
Rossi waited for most of his rivals to leave pit lane before he made his way onto the track. His initial lap moved him into fourth place. He improved his time, but not his position on his second attempt, pushed back to fifth as his rivals upped their speed.
With seven and a half minutes of the session remaining, the Italian headed back to the pit box and was out a minute and a half later. Cheered on by his home fans, the local hero pushed out four red sectors to clock a lap of 1:46.208, earning his 65th career pole.
Rossi beat former teammate Jorge Lorenzo, now a Ducati rider, by .035 of a second for the top spot in his home grand prix and his first pole since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2016.
His 65th pole ties him with Lorenzo for second on the all-time list.
“It gave a great emotion, especially facing the crowd the lap after the pole … that was fantastic,” said Rossi of earning the top spot on the grid. “It‘s great, but it‘s also a surprise. This year in qualifying I always suffered, but today the lap was great and I thought it would be enough for the front row, but in the end it was pole position.
“It‘s been a long time since I was on pole, so it‘s important and it’s a great feeling,” Rossi added. “I think tomorrow will be more difficult, but for sure I‘m enjoying this moment.”
Lorenzo’s lap of 1:46.243 was good enough for the middle of the front row in second.
Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales also gave a heroic performance during qualifying for the Gran Premio d‘Italia Oakley, surviving a hard-fought Q1 and ultimately ending up on the far side of the front row in third during Q2.
Andrea Iannone put Team Suzuki Ecstar on the second row of the grid in fourth, flanked by Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, the current MotoGP championship leader.
Andrea Dovizioso. Cal Crutchlow, Johann Zarco and Alex Rins completed the top 10 qualifiers.