Valentino Rossi says his “surprise” Thailand second-place in MotoGP qualifying is more the result of a “better marriage” between the Yamaha, the track and tyres rather than any major bike changes.
Two weeks ago in Aragon Rossi qualified 18th, and was only 12th on the combined timesheets at the end of the Thailand pre-season test in February, which led the Italian to believe this weekend would be a struggle for Yamaha.
However, Yamaha has been inside the top three throughout this weekend's practice sessions, with Rossi missing pole by just 0.011 seconds to Marc Marquez to claim his first front row since Brno.
Admitting only a small modification to the bike's electronics to aid the bike's weak acceleration has been made since Aragon, Rossi believes his pace is simply down to the track and the tyres.
“From Aragon we modify something, but in reality the bike is very similar,” he said.
“So maybe it's just the better marriage between the tyres, the M1 and this track. From yesterday to today we work hard, tried to improve the balance to create more grip and I'm not so bad.
“I feel good because I am not so bad in braking, and I'm happy to start in the front row, but I'm also happy with my pace in FP4 because with the race tyre I am quite strong.
“So now we have to confirm tomorrow because you never know, try to make a good race and fight for the podium.
“We arrive here sincerely with a small modify for the acceleration, but on the paper we don't expect it's a lot better.
“So I hope with all my heart we can be strong in all the tracks, but unfortunately I think it's the track and the tyres.”
While pleased with his upturn in form, Rossi remains cautious how this will translate into the race, citing what happened at Misano when Vinales qualified third but finished 16s from the win in fifth, while he was a further three seconds adrift in seventh.
“It's good, it's just Saturday, we need to understand tomorrow because in Misano on Saturday we were fast and Sunday no.
“So we will speak after the race, and after we try Motegi to understand if we are better or was just the track.”
In recent races, Yamaha has brought in electronics engineer Michele Gada from its World Superbike project to help with its issues in MotoGP, as well as adding new faces to its team back in Japan.
Rossi says the modification to the electronics introduced for this weekend is something which has come from this “new group”, and that its shows Yamaha is trying to “put more effort” into its MotoGP program.
“Yeah, in the last period Yamaha had some new engineers,” he added.
“One is [Michele] Gada, another also in Japan, and is something coming from the new group of work.
“So looks like Yamaha try to put more effort, this is what we need to try to fight with Honda and Ducati.”