Luco di Mugello - Italian motorcycling star Valentino Rossi snatched his first pole position in over a year and a half with a new track record at the Italian MotoGP on Saturday.
The Yamaha rider clocked a new best time of 1min 46.208sec around the Mugello track to put him ahead of two Spanish riders: Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo at 0.035sec, with Rossi's Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales, who was 0:096 off the pace, completing the front row for Sunday's race.
It was the first pole position for the 39-year-old former seven-time world MotoGP champion since the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2016.
"I'm very happy, it's a surprise," said Rossi, whose success was enthusiastically greeted by the thousands of home fans at the track where he won the MotoGP class seven years in a row between 2002 and 2008.
"In the last free practice session we tried harder tyres but I was in trouble, with the medium tyres it was better, the bike was good and when I saw the time of 1'46.2 I thought 'It could be ...' It was very emotional.
"Tomorrow will be a bit harder, but for now I enjoy the moment."
Rossi shaved 0.231 off the new lap record which had been achieved earlier in the day by Spanish world champion Marc Marquez of Honda.
Championship leader Marquez will start from sixth on the grid with Italy's Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) in fourth and fifth position.
Italian Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, winner last year in Mugello, starts from seventh.