Valentino Rossi made a strong start to his home Misano MotoGP round, finishing Friday practice in third place and just 0.258s from the top.

Using Yamaha's new seamless shift gearbox for the first time in a race weekend, Rossi gained one position relative to morning practice to finish the day as the leading M1 rider.

Repsol Honda title leaders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa set the pace in both sessions, with Rossi's team-mate and reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo completing a close top four.

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"It's always special and a great feeling to ride here," said Rossi. "Today was a good Friday for me, my performance was not so bad. This morning I was already quite fast but especially this afternoon my pace was very good. I was fast from the beginning to the end of the practice and we are very close to the front.

"Yamaha has made a fantastic job with the gearbox; it is a great help for the riders. I don't think it's a big improvement for performance on one lap but the bike is more stable and less demanding and you can concentrate more on the line and riding the bike on the limit.

"We improved our acceleration and it will help in a race distance because our bike is more easy to ride and in acceleration you can put the bike more precisely for the next corner so for a race distance it will be a big help. The biggest difference is the settings for the electronics because the bike wheelies less now but mechanically we use the same settings."

Rossi also spent some time on track following rookie star Marquez.

"I enjoyed following Marc because his style is very fun and also because he was a bit faster than me, but not a lot so we could stay together," said Rossi. "It's very difficult to compare our riding style because you have to ride our bikes completely differently, especially on the entry to the corner, but I have some points where I was not too bad and with the seamless we lose less in acceleration so it was fun."

"We have started very well considering we started using the new transmission today," added team director Massimo Meregalli. "The feeling of the riders has been great, as good as it was in Brno. They are both really impressed with it and I think the feeling will only get better as they get used to it. This morning we suffered from a lack of grip but we recovered well this afternoon. We are heading in the right direction, we are close and tomorrow we will make another step."

Misano is the second of the two Italian-based events and the closest to Rossi's home town of Tavullia, located within ten kilometres of the circuit.

Rossi is aiming to return to the podium for the first time since Laguna Seca, just before the summer break.