Valentino Rossi dropped from second to fourth place during day two of Sepang MotoGP testing, but the Italian star remained the top Yamaha and matched the time improvement by dominant leader Marc Marquez.

Marquez's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl moved ahead of Rossi on day two, when the Doctor was again half-a-second from the reigning world champion.

"Today is another positive day, because first of all because I did a 2m 0.4s and I improved my lap time over yesterday by close to half a second," said Rossi.

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"I also stayed half a second from Marquez, who is very strong and made the difference today. The other guys - we are all very, very close, also on rhythm.

"We tried to work also with the new tyres. I expected that the new tyres would be better, but in reality we had some problems that we need to fix.

"We also did a lot of tests for the engine fuel consumption, because the engine becomes a bit more 'nervous' and the [throttle] connection when you are on the edge [of the tyre] is a bit more rough, so we need to make the right balance."

The Factory class entries must adapt to one litre less race fuel for this season. Rossi seems to be coping better with the revised engine character caused by the fuel-saving electronics than team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

The reigning title runner-up was fourth fastest on day one and sixth on day two, albeit only 0.647s behind Marquez.

"Maybe Jorge suffers a bit more than me [with the fuel saving electronics], but it is only the second day and we were very close and on rhythm we are very close," said Rossi. "We are more or less at the same level. I am happy. I like the bike also like this, but it is very critical that we ty to improve."

Indeed, improving is the main priority for Rossi, who also had an encouraging opening test last season - at the start of his Yamaha comeback season - but then lost touch with Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa.

"Also last year the first test was good," confirmed Rossi. "I did a 2m 0.5s so I am already faster than last year, when I was third on the last day. What we must do this year, is improve because last year we were not able to improve enough.

"The other guys improved more than us. This is the target for this year."

Rossi also had words of praise for Aleix Espargaro, who was fifth fastest on the new Open class Yamaha.

"It is not only the bike, Espargaro has improved very much in recent years," said Rossi. "Last year he did great with Aprilia and looks like he is ready to bring a bike to the limit in MotoGP."