Valentino Rossi's Le Mans hopes took a hit during Friday practice for the French MotoGP, when the Movistar Yamaha rider was left just tenth on the timesheets.
Riding high after a strong Spanish MotoGP and post-race test, Rossi began the day a close third in FP1 - but struggled to improve during the afternoon and slipped one-second behind Marc Marquez.
The Italian is now in danger of missing the top ten cut-off for direct Q2 entry, unless he can improve during what will be cooler conditions in Saturday morning's FP3 session.
“I'm not happy about today, especially this afternoon. I wasn't able to be strong and near the top. I have a lot of problems with the bike especially in acceleration, I have a big problem to open the throttle because the bike is very nervous,” he explained.
“We tried to modify something during the practice but we didn't fix anything. I'm too far from the front so for tomorrow we have to check the data and improve to be more competitive; it is important to start in the top five here.”
Rossi, who claimed second place behind Marquez in Jerez, added: “The difference between Jerez and here for the settings is unbelievable, so we have to put the bike 'upside down'. Change a lot of things. Le Mans is always like this! I hope it is just a question of time and tomorrow I can have a good setting.”
Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was seventh quickest on Friday, while Tech 3's Bradley Smith led the Yamaha challenge in fourth.
“We started today's first practice with a base set up from our Jerez test last week,” said Movistar Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli. “The first impressions from the morning were quite good. We then didn't make big changes between the sessions because we were expecting track conditions to improve in the afternoon to suit the setting of the bike better. Unfortunately the track did not improve for us that much.
“We made a change from the soft front to the medium for the afternoon and adjusted the electronics but we still need to make some steps forward for tomorrow. Jorge was very consistent; his place in the timings doesn't necessarily reflect his performance. Vale is having more issues with his set up than Jorge so we have some work to do with his set up to be ready to step up for the third practice in the morning.”
Rossi, who again has one new chassis this weekend, is currently third in the world championship behind Honda riders Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.