Valentino Rossi was unable to pinpoint exactly why he was unable to remain at the front of the MotoGP field in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, which he eventually lost by just over a second to team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
'Gifted' pole by Saturday's qualifying wash-out, Rossi made an unusually strong start to lead into turn one and was soon pulling clear of the pack.
However, he was hunted down by Lorenzo, who snatched the lead on lap nine, and Rossi later temporally lost second to Dani Pedrosa, before regaining form in the closing stages.
"I got a really good start from the front row, but there was a part of the race that I wasn't quite able to ride like I wanted, there was some kind of problem and I wasn't fast enough to pull away,” shrugged the Italian.
“I lost time from Jorge and then was involved in a battle with Dani and then in the last part of the race I was able to step up my pace and pick my lines, setting some good lap times. I tried to come back but unfortunately Lorenzo was too far away,” he confirmed.
Having finished second to Casey Stoner in the Qatar season opener, Rossi is now one point from Lorenzo heading to round three, at Jerez next weekend, and believes four riders are now serious contenders. The four in question are presumably Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
“It's a good race, second place is not a victory but it's still twenty points for the championship. I think the championship will become very interesting now because we have four riders ready to battle for wins at the end,” he said.
"Valentino took a very important second place, because our target is to be always there,” said team manager Davide Brivio. “Now we are looking forward to going back to Europe for a very important phase of the championship and it is crucial to start this time on top".
The top seven riders on Sunday all used the same medium compound front and rear Bridgestone tyres. Only one dry track session had been held prior to the race.