MotoGP world championship leader Valentino Rossi finished the first day of the French Grand Prix in sixth position at Le Mans.

The Movistar Yamaha rider was 0.507s behind Tech 3 Yamaha's Bradley Smith, but pleased with improvements made on his final run of the day.

Rossi was yet to break the 1m 34s barrier prior to that exit, but went on to set four 1m 33s laps - using the medium rear tyre (the hardest available this weekend).

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"I'm quite happy about the day because in the last exit this afternoon we improved the bike and I had a quite good pace. Quite constant and quite fast," Rossi confirmed. "I lose in some places, like section 1 and 3 I'm not fantastic, but we have things to improve in the bike.

"In the end I am sixth positon, but I think we have good potential. We have to improve and work a lot, but for Friday it is not so bad."

Rossi, who snatched a dramatic victory from Marc Marquez after choosing the harder of the rear tyre options in Argentina, added:

"I like the harder tyre. We have to say that this weekend there is not a big difference between the hard and soft, but I like the hard. Depends very much on the weather condition and temperature but the hard is a race option."

The Doctor, who starts round five with a 15 point lead over Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso, insisted a technical issue in the morning session was nothing to worry about.

"We have a small problem. Nothing serious. But unfortunately some oil exit [the bike] and I had to stop. Unfortunately also I cannot use the rear tyre [again] so this afternoon I had to use a used rear. Just fix and no problem for the engine, but it was a small problem for this morning."

Team-mate and Jerez winner Jorge Lorenzo was second quickest. The Spaniard set eight laps under 1m 34s, with nine for Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso (who has a softer grade of rear tyre) and four for Honda's reigning champion Marc Marquez.