Valentino Rossi made late progress to reach fourth on the final day of the second Sepang MotoGP test, after which he spelt out the 'reality' of the situation he faces ahead of his comeback Yamaha season.
The seven time MotoGP champion enjoyed an inspiring test at the same circuit earlier this month, marking his first dry Yamaha laps since 2010, but suffered niggling technical issues on each day of this week's return visit.
Fifth quickest on the opening two days, Rossi was ranked seventh with an hour of Thursday track time remaining. Rossi then halved the one-second gap to Honda pace setter Dani Pedrosa on his penultimate lap, moving him to fourth.
“A the end I am quite happy because the last hour we improved quite a lot. I am in fourth place and not so far from Jorge,” said Rossi before leaving Sepang. “But in general this test was a bit worse than the first because we struggled a bit more.
“We had a lot of 'trouble' over all three days. Today it was the brakes - we lost time modifying the setting because the bike didn't stop and then after one and a half hours we understand that the problem was the brakes. The system lost pressure. So we were unlucky.
“So it did not go as smoothly as the first test, and of course everybody had to change their plans because of the rain this morning.”
Despite such issues, Rossi was only 0.070s behind team-mate and reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo in terms of best Thursday lap time. However, after a total of six days at Sepang, Rossi feels a gap exists between himself and the three other factory riders from Yamaha and Honda.
“For me I understand that the Hondas are very fast, Pedrosa and also Marquez, and we saw especially yesterday that Lorenzo is very, very strong,” declared Rossi. "It means if we want to fight for the podium, fight for the victory, we will have to give more than 100 per cent and it will be very hard.
"I already knew this after the first test, but after the first test I was more happy because it was a big step compared to last year [with Ducati]. Now this is the reality. The first three guys are very fast - Lorenzo and Pedrosa, but also Marquez - and it looks like we need to improve a bit.
“We have time, this is just the second test. We have a lot of work to do and after for sure the races will be different. It will be a tough season, tough work - but the target will be interesting.”
The factory Yamaha and Honda teams now head for a private test at the new Austin circuit in Texas, in mid-March, before the third and final official pre-season test is held at Jerez.