Title possible today: Valentino Rossi
Sepang (Malaysia): Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi would have heaved a sigh of relief after Honda's Dani Pedrosa clocked the quickest time (one minute 59.053 seconds) to finish on pole for Sunday's Shell Malaysian MotoGP at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday.
Pedrosa (165 points) is in fifth place in the world championship standings and is not a prospect in the title race which currently has Rossi (296 points) leading the pack, with only 11 points separating him from his second-placed teammate Jorge Lorenzo (285 points).
And had the two-time champion Spaniard stolen pole here, the title battle could well have gone down to the wire at the last race of the season next up in Valencia. But now Rossi is hopeful he can seal the deal here in Sepang itself.
"I don't think tomorrow will be easy but yes it (winning the world title in Sepang) will be possible. Yesterday I was a bit worried, I had some problem, some vibration, some chattering and so I finished in eighth place. But for sure this qualifying makes me more quiet. Today I demonstrated a better pace, better rhythm.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa in action at Sepang on Saturday. PIC/AFP
I feel more excited, it's difficult to sleep with a lot of energy," said Rossi, a nine-time champion nicknamed 'The Doctor' for his precision riding. Lorenzo (1:59.737s) meanwhile, having been edged out to fourth in qualifying by a last-minute Rossi (1:59.726s) run on Saturday, is quietly confident.
Consistency will pay
"I believe I can be with Dani and Marc tomorrow in the race because it's a long race and maybe they won't have the same explosive pace throughout," said the Spaniard.
Rossi, who starts Sunday's race in the outside front row having qualified third fastest, behind the Hondas of Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, must win here to ensure the title is in the bag. And the fact that Lorenzo has never won a MotoGP race at Sepang might just aid The Doctor's super-quick operation.