A rain shower before final practice at Le Mans meant MotoGP World Championship leader Valentino Rossi delayed the debut of a new set-up for his Movistar Yamaha until qualifying.

That gave the Italian just 15-minutes to understand the changes and explained why he was twelfth and last after his first run. The Doctor improved on his second fresh tyre, but will only start seventh on the grid after lapping 1.1s from Honda pole sitter Marc Marquez.

"It is a little bit of a shame and we are also unlucky because for us the free practice this afternoon was very important," said Rossi, speaking at the back of the pit garages at Le Mans, as fans shouted his name from all directions.

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"We kept new tyres and decided after this morning to modify the setting of the bike. So it was important to make free practice with the new setting. Unfortunately it rained, but we decided to use the new setting for qualifying. It was difficult. You have to push at the maximum from the start of qualifying. With the first tyre I was last, but with the second tyre already better."

Despite his grid position, Rossi doesn't regret the decision to run the new set-up and believes it has put him in better shape for the race.

"I'm quite happy because I feel better with the bike," he said. "I think that we moved in the right way. Now we have to improve for tomorrow. Not a lot. Small details. A little bit in braking. Something in the electronics. But now the bike turns better. I can pick up [the bike on the exit of the corners]. This is very important for the acceleration and pace because you don't damage the edge of the tyre.

"We have still some work but the feeling is good and I think I can keep a better pace."

Rossi's main concern now is preventing front row starters Marquez, Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo from escaping.

"Starting from the third row is not fantastic for sure especially because the three guys with the best pace are in the front row. The guys that during practice are always faster: Jorge, Dovi and Marquez," Rossi said. "So to try to stay with them I have to start well and try not to lose too much in the first laps.

Rossi's team-mate Lorenzo dominated the last round in Spain and has set a similarly high standard in practice at Le Mans, but the Italian declared: "Jorge is in great shape also here, but for me I'm closer than in Jerez."

Rossi starts rounds five with a 15-point lead over nearest rival Dovizioso.