Yamaha's Valentino Rossi expects he will have to “suffer” in Sunday's Aragon MotoGP race because of his broken leg, despite taking a shock front row qualifying spot.
Rossi, who made an expedited return to MotoGP action at Aragon just three weeks on from fracturing his right leg in a motocross crash, managed to qualify an impressive third for his comeback race.
But while the Italian says he has felt comfortable so far this weekend, he has been reluctant to set any concrete targets for Sunday's 23-lap event.
Asked about his expectations for the race, he said: “You know, Friday morning when I wake up, I had pain. This morning when I wake up, I was already in a better shape.
“If continue like this and tomorrow [I] make another step, for me with the leg I can do all the race, but we need to wait and to see.
“For sure with the race tyres, the bike is a bit more difficult to ride, more demanding. And the race is difficult for everybody in the normal conditions, so for sure I have to suffer, but I will try.”
Rossi, who had advanced to Q2 directly through a top-10 lap in Saturday morning practice and then was just 0.180s slower than pace-setting teammate Maverick Vinales in the pole shoot-out, admitted his strong result came as a surprise.
“It's a surprise also for me, also for us," he said, "because I didn't know what I had to expect.
"One week ago start to think that maybe is possible to ride in Aragon. I did some lap with the [Yamaha road bike] R1, so I understand that I can ride but with a lot of pain. But I was lucky because the leg improve every day.
“Riding [the MotoGP bike] yesterday on the wet was not so bad, I didn't feel a lot of pain in the leg, but I don't know on the dry.
“But already this morning I feel quite good. I can ride, with some pain but not too much, so I can concentrate on the riding.”
He admitted, however, that his long-run pace needed work, having finished just 16th in the FP4 session that's normally reserved for race simulations.
“Starting from the front row is important always, for me tomorrow it is also more important because usually it is more easy from the top.
“We need to understand, still to work a bit, because with the race tyre my pace is not fantastic, but we try to improve tomorrow.”
Compatriot Andrea Dovizioso, who qualified seventh for Ducati, said he couldn't be certain that Rossi wouldn't struggle in race trim.
“When you see him riding, it looks like he really is okay, and he is really fast - I expected him to be fast, but not like this,” Dovizioso said.
“But we have to see the race. When you put a soft tyre, low fuel and push 100 percent, the riding style is completely different - there is a big difference compared to the race, more here than some other tracks.
“We have to see him about the race. His pace is not bad in FP4, a lot of riders did a good lap but to make a good lap and to be competitive in the whole race is a different story.”
Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont