The first competitive MotoGP action of 2015 ended with Valentino Rossi just ninth during Thursday practice for the Qatar Grand Prix.

The Movistar Yamaha rider, who came within 0.2s of beating Marc Marquez for victory one year ago, was 0.881s behind the Repsol Honda rider in the opening practice session.

"Today was difficult," began the seven time MotoGP champion, speaking in the Losail paddock. "I wasn't fast enough and my pace was not strong. We tried to improve the rear because also in the test here we suffered with rear grip, but we 'damaged' very much the tyre from the beginning.

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"It looks like we are not okay with the setting because Jorge [Lorenzo, fourth fastest] is able to use the tyre in a better way and did a good pace. This is good because it means the bike is not so bad. But for sure the Hondas are very fast."

The Italian, starting his 20th grand prix season, added: "I don't know exactly [what is wrong] but it seems we don't make the rear tyre comfortable. When you don't use it in a good way the tyre starts to damage and then the bike moves and it is very difficult.

"The shame now is that we have just one practice tonight. So now we have to check the data, but to understand if we fixed the problem we have to wait until tomorrow."

The unique Qatar night race schedule will see two further MotoGP practice sessions on Friday, final practice and qualifying on Saturday, then the warm-up and race on Sunday.