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'I can fight' says happy Rossi

“All these three days were positive, but today was the best - firstly because I am third and not fourth on the timesheet. So I am hypothetically on the front row!

“It's been a lifetime. Usually in the past two years I've been fighting for the third or fourth row [in qualifying], so it would be exciting to start in the first row this year!

“Also the lap time is getting better and I always improved, just like the top guys. My distance from the 'pole position' is 0.4s. It's good and I'm very happy about this.”

Rossi made clear that Pedrosa and Lorenzo are still in a class of their own, but catching them has at least become a realistic target for the 33-year-old.

“For sure I have a lot of work still to do, especially to stay with Lorenzo and Pedrosa,” Rossi warned.

“Jorge did a great race simulation, at a very high level and he rides so well. If I had tried to do a race simulation today I could not go as fast as him.

“But anyway to start the season with the potential, and the target, to try to improve enough to fight with Pedrosa and Lorenzo is already a good step.”

Turning to technical matters, Rossi stated that he felt the latest M1 developments offered an improvement, but that he is not yet in a position to make too many requests.

“Today we tried the new bike. A different specification that we will use this season and the new bike is a bit faster than the old,” he said.

“This is very important because in the second part of last year Lorenzo was struggling against the Hondas. We need something more to fight with the Honda and it looks like Yamaha are working in the right way.

“But for me it is not the time to say I need something better from the bike. I just need to do more kilometres because we can improve my feeling with the M1 and the way to ride.

“Anyway we have time and now we have to continue like this.”

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