California: World champion Valentino Rossi made a spectacular return from injury at last week`s German MotoGP but the Italian showman has found the going much tougher preparing for the U.S. Grand Prix.
Six days after finishing a highly impressive fourth at the Sachsenring, the nine-times world champion battled to qualify sixth for Sunday`s race at the challenging Laguna Seca circuit.
Although he has recovered surprisingly quickly after breaking his right leg last month at his home grand prix at Mugello, he is still being hampered by a shoulder injury dating back to April.
"My leg feels better than yesterday, which is good, but the problem today was the shoulder," the 31-year-old told reporters after recording a best lap of 1:21.688 in qualifying.
"My left one isn`t strong enough to compensate completely for the lack of power in my right one and now I have some pain in both shoulders."
"My hope for tomorrow is to be able to finish the race without too much pain and to do the best we can in the circumstances."
Rossi had always expected a tough test at Laguna Seca, which is one of the tightest and most physically demanding tracks on the MotoGP circuit despite also being the shortest.
"This track is a lot harder for me than Sachsenring," said the Italian Yamaha rider who was initially told by doctors he would be out for at least three months after breaking his leg in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
"When I go down to change direction and I have to push on the right leg, I have some pain."
Rossi knows he will face an uphill task on Sunday when he starts almost a second behind Yamaha`s championship leader Jorge Lorenzo of Spain, on pole, and Ducati`s Australian Casey Stoner.
"We didn`t go too badly today but we need to improve our setting a little bit to get closer to the leaders," the Italian said. "Lorenzo and Stoner are very fast but after that there are a few riders quite close together, including me."
"There are a few corners where we know we can be a bit faster so tomorrow morning we will try to make some small changes to the setting to allow that."
"Then I need to get a good start (and) ... I hope I can do a good race."