(Reuters) - Italian veteran Valentino Rossi stunned his Spanish rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez by seizing pole position for their home MotoGP race in Jerez on Saturday.
Rossi’s fastest time of one minute 38.736 seconds pushed Yamaha team mate and reigning world champion Lorenzo back to second place. 0.122 slower, with Honda’s championship leader Marquez third.
The pole was Rossi’s first since last year’s Dutch round in Assen and his 52nd in the top category.
It was also the 37-year-old’s first pole in Jerez since 2005. The Italian has won six times in 16 starts at the southern circuit in the top flight.
The nine-times world champion, who is 33 points behind Marquez and 12 adrift of Lorenzo, has now qualified on the front row for three successive races -- the first time he has done that since 2009.
Italian Andrea Dovizioso will line up fourth for Ducati in Sunday’s race, round four of the season, followed by five Spanish riders.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow, 10th for LCR Honda, was the only non-Spanish or Italian rider in the top 10.
The session started late after final free practice was delayed because five out of the 10 Michelin tire fitters were laid low by sickness, meaning it took twice as long to prepare the bikes.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond