Valentino Rossi was happier than his fifth place in Friday practice for the Australian MotoGP might suggest.

The Italian, locked in a close fight with Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo for second in the world championship, was just 0.352s slower than pace setting Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo.

Most importantly, Rossi believes he is getting on top of the wheelspin issues most riders are battling with due to the tougher rear tyres, created by Bridgestone following last year's troubles.

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"This track is very, very difficult for the tyres. Also in the past this track was always very critical, even on the 500, in terms of blisters," began Rossi, speaking in the Phillip Island paddock on Friday evening.

"About the rear I am quite happy, quite satisfied. I think Bridgestone worked well. For sure we have lost a little bit of grip, which is normal [when you improve endurance], but it looks like this tyre can make all the race. This is the target for everybody.

"But we have to work very much on the bike to try to help the tyre not to spin too much. The big problem is when you pick up the bike and go full throttle, you spin. You are not completely straight, not a lot of angle, but still you spin a lot.

"In fact I'm quite happy for today because especially at the end we improved a lot the rear grip and I was able to do a good lap time on a used [medium] tyre."

The big news in terms of the front allocation is the debut of an asymmetric tyre, which features different rubber compounds on each side.

However team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was among several riders to fall on the asymmetric tyre, prompting Rossi to remain on the extra-soft front. The Misano winner now aims to try and make that tyre last the full race distance.

"We have to decide between the asymmetric and the extra soft," said Rossi. "Jorge crashed with the asymmetric tyre. He was fast but he crashed. So it means it is a little bit difficult. So I want to continue with the extra soft and hope it can last the race.

"Today we made a lot of laps without problem. It is good and we hope to continue like this. But if tomorrow we understand that the extra soft will be a problem we have to think about the asymmetric."

Rossi abandoned a planned run on the new tyre after Lorenzo's heavy accident, under braking for the Turn Four hairpin.

"I didn't try the asymmetric tyre because after Jorge crashed we cancelled and remained with the extra soft," Rossi confirmed. "But the riders who used it, liked it. They said it has a 'normal' feeling.

"The problem is it looks a little bit different to manage when braking. Not because it is asymmetric, but because the rubber on one side is harder."

Rossi was unbeaten at Phillip Island from 2001-2005, but hasn't stood on the top step of the Australian MotoGP podium since. The Doctor finished third in last year's shortened race, which also featured a compulsory bike swap due to tyre concerns.

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It's probably not a surprise they are having issues with the asymmetric tyre in cold conditions. Even in a straight line, having half the tyre width softer and more grippy than the other half is likely to cause stability issues.
Equally though I can't see how the supersoft can be expected to last race distance after last year's experience. For sure some of the abrasiveness of the track will have worn off but it still seems to be unusually harsh compared with other circuits.
Hopefully the forecasts are right for warmer weather but you can't count on it. The last time I went to PI I ended up buying a jacket because it was so (surprisingly) cold!